How the BBC Trust betrays our trust (Part 3)

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8th August 2011

How the BBC Trust betrays our trust (Part 3)

In my previous posts on this topic here and here I showed  how the BBC Trust is not doing its job as our guardian of the BBC’s impartiality.

In this post I provide a third and final example of the Trust’s shortcomings taken from their recent findings on an appeal  put to them by one of our campaigners, Stan Rosenthal.

It will be recalled that the appeal concerned a complaint about the biased nature of an article that Jeremy Paxman had written for the Guardian and as with the other two reasons they gave for rejecting the appeal the Trust ignored in their third conclusion key points put to them by Mr Rosenthal, and did not even report them in the account of their findings published on their website.

This third conclusion read as follows:

  • Regarding whether the article overall had expressed a wholly one-sided, anti-war viewpoint, the Committee noted the earlier decision by the Director of News to uphold two aspects of the complaint but did not believe that the article as a whole would have resulted in the undermining of confidence in the professional integrity of Jeremy Paxman or the impartiality of the BBC. Accordingly it did not accept there had been a breach of the guidelines on Conflicts of Interest with regard to the article overall.

Yet this conclusion and the supporting argument for it took no account of Stan Rosenthal’s point by point account of how these other aspects of the article breached the BBC’s impartiality rules. More importantly, as Mr Rosenthal told the adjudicating Committee, the paperwork on which they based their decision omitted any reference to what he considered to be a highly relevant piece of evidence regarding the public’s perception of Mr Paxman’s article that he had set out in his appeal letter as follows [please note the two emphases below are mine not Mr Rosenthal’s to the BBC Trust]:

[Mr Paxman’s] piece was riddled through with bias. As Peter Hitchens put it in his Mail Online blog of 19 February – “Mr Paxman expressed the bog-standard view of the London Left about the Iraq war”. This is evidenced by the widespread support for Mr Paxman’s article from those opposing the war when my complaint was publicised in the Independent on Sunday – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/paxman-broke-bbc-impartialityrules-2213121.html and elsewhere. The Independent on Sunday’s article attracted 128 online comments, almost all of which defended the article from an anti-war standpoint. Perhaps the most revealing comment was “It’s a shame Paxman isn’t running the Chilcot enquiry”.

It should also be noted that the Committee chose not to respond to the following questions that had been posed in the paperwork.

  1. whether the article compromised Paxman’s ability to take a prominent role in interpreting the Iraq inquiry’s findings for the Newsnight audience and interviewing some of the key players;
  2. whether Paxman’s reference to “the lies that took us to war” was so partial  regardless of what the rest of the article said that it rendered the whole article biased.

After the final draft of the Committee’s findings had been drafted Mr Rosenthal was given the chance to comment on them before they were published at the website.

He said this:

“I have two process comments on how my side of the argument is reported in the findings.

First, I do not think that the summary of my appeal letter to the BBC Trust in para 77.2 Stage 2. properly covers the key points I made in that letter since it only covers in general terms  my objections to the responses of the  Director of News to the particular extracts of the Paxman article I highlighted in contrast to the summary of the letter from the Director of News which sets out her views on each and every extract. My individual objections to her responses were clearly and succinctly conveyed on my letter and these should have been included in the summary as they were in the summary of the Director of News’s letter. This is important because those reading the report will not have been given a fair representation of the pros and cons of this particular argument which was central to my case that the article as a whole gave the impression that Mr Paxman was biased against Tony Blair and the Iraq war.

Second, the conclusions of the Committee related solely to the considerations put to them in the paperwork with nothing to suggest that they had noted, let alone addressed my comments on these considerations, after I had deliberately asked for this at the end of my comments on the paperwork.”

In their response, which we are not allowed to publish the Trust rejected Mr Rosenthal’s observations with a line of argument that amounted to the findings being only supposed to set out the Committee’s reasons for its conclusions without any obligation to include the complainants’ comments on how their case is being presented to them.  They also said in effect that it was for the Committee to decide which arguments they would take into account when coming to their conclusions.

Stan Rosenthal’s final word to the Trust was –

“I assume from your reply that it is not BBC Trust policy to properly reflect the arguments of the complainant in your findings and that the policy is just to record predominately those views (from the BBC in this case) that support the Committee’s findings. There is therefore no real openness and transparency as far as the general public is concerned since they do not see the arguments that the complainant may consider to be crucial if, as in this case, they are ignored by the Committee. As a result it is not possible for the public to determine whether the Committee’s findings have addressed the exact nature of the complaint. At the very least these arguments should be noted in the findings. As such I think this is a huge issue for the BBC Trust if not the Committee and I will be taking the matter up in due course.”

In my view the revelations appearing in these three posts represent a massive indictment of how the BBC Trust is working, particularly with regard to Blair-related matters. They are supposed to be the champions of the licence-fee payers when  BBC rules are flouted.  Instead they are clearly beholden to the anti-Blair/anti-Iraq war consensus that dominates the BBC and have shown that they are less than scrupulous in addressing and publishing the key arguments that are put to them on such matters.

Lord Patten please note.

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RELATED

My banner at the top of this post, only slightly altered from the original below appeared firstly on John Rentoul’s blog.

A list of just some of his enlightening Iraq Inquiry Rebuttal Service  can be found here

My dear friend Julie has also used this graphic,  as have I , for instance here  – Lincoln, Attlee, Major “war criminals” – (just so you know.) I mean – let’s be reasonable.

It comes to a pretty pass when we feel the need to adjust the original banner to focus on rebutting the BBC Trust and its responses to complaints highlighting their own bias.

Back to top

Click to Buy Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’

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Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here

Recent comments:

I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)

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The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
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Blair was the greatest Labour Prime Minister. It is a disgrace that the party has turned away from his legacy. Shame on Ed Miliband and his so-called ‘new generation’.

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2 Responses to “How the BBC Trust betrays our trust (Part 3)”

  1. Miriam Says:

    My husband and I highly value BBC TV and radio, because we can enjoy it without those horried adverts that we hate.

    Last night we saw “Glorious 39” on BBC2 which was jointly produced by BBC Films. At the end, I said that it was a great film, but that it was funny that the BBC make a film… that portrays the ANTI-WAR campaigners as the lunatics.

    Actually, my husband finished the sentence for me, so he saw the irony too!

    • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

      Sorry, I haven’t replied to this before. Catching up. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I missed that programme. It seems there was also a great BBC programme tonight – Our War. I missed it too, lagely because I have come to distrust the BBC’s agenda. I expect to see it later.

      I too value the BBC and its breadth of coverage, but it has a highly biased POLITICAL position against Britain doing anything in foreign policy that might be uncomfortable. It lives in some detached dreamland where we, the 4th/5th most powerful nation in the world, should never do anything like stepping up to the plate, when threats abound. In case people die. The result of doing nothing often means MORE people die, of course. But then OUR hands would be clean, so that’s all right then!

      In that position I think the BBC is highly reprehensible in its politicising of many of its reports and opinion pieces. It has NO place taking a position which downgrades, even vilifies our politicians’ authority to do what they are voted in to do – make decisions.

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