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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Is the Pope Catholic?

Much has been said about the BBC’s approach to the question of the EU and the unequal treatment of the sophisticated cosmopolitan pro EU spokesmen and the common xenophobic types who don’t like Germans. So the question is, does the BBC favour the EU in its coverage? From Vote No, we have a view of the problem. Our experience is that the BBC has been institutionally sympathetic to the euro and the EU Constitution, sometimes to the point of bias. They give 6 specific ways in which the problem shows itself.
1) The wrong approach to this issue While print journalists from both sides of the debate often ring our campaign office looking for information, rebuttal lines, and stories to break, BBC journalists rarely come to us in this way. In our experience BBC journalists generally have a lower level of knowledge and less curiosity about the issue.
This sums up the BBC’s approach to many subjects. They think they know everything and do not therefore need to ask for advice. Funny though that BBC journalists are the ignorant ones on matters of Europe, not the public.
2. The Westminster focus The BBC also appears obsessed with reporting European issues through a party political Westminster prism. For example the BBC’s coverage of the decision to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution presented the issue as a Labour versus Tory battle, despite the fact that 88 percent of the public wanted a referendum.
Of course this has nothing to do with the BBC’s perception that the Tories are the nasty party. The only parties with very well defined positions on the European Union are the Liberal Democrats and the UKIP. Both Labour and the Conservatives are sitting on the fence. Admitting this would however be admitting that the issue is a complex one, not a simple nice versus xenophobe.
3. The BBC’s record We are also concerned about subtle forms of bias in the way issues are presented; the selection of people used to put the two sides’ cases; and the “body language” used by journalists presenting the issues. In particular, BBC reporting has been prone to present events as “celebrations” – for example the launch of the euro and the agreement on the EU Constitution
The celebration side of their coverage is the most obvious indication of the bias. Of course such occasions are set up by those in charge of them as celebrations. It does not take much persuasion to get the BBC to take the bait though.
4. The importance of reflecting public opinion Of the 29 polls conducted on the EU Constitution by various organisations since the start of 2003, only one shows a majority for the Constitution (a clearly inaccurate poll carried out by the European Commission). This has been cited by the BBC several times.
For years, the BBC has treated Euro sceptic opinions as they might train spotters or birdwatchers. We know it exists, we believe everyone is entitled to freedom of choice, but it is not more than an interesting part of the tapestry of life. It is certainly not in anyway mainstream.
5. The BBC’s “cultural bias.” We do not believe that BBC journalists have intentionally biased coverage of Europe. It is true, however, that opposition to the Constitution and the euro, while universal in all class and age groups, is somewhat less strong among London based, AB voters, who form a large part of the Westminster scene to which BBC journalists are regularly exposed
None of my friends are Eurosceptic, so therefore I can’t imagine that anyone who holds such views could be a decent person. Its the curse of Guardian appointments again.
6. Institutional problems which are particular concerns b) The use of independent “experts” who are not genuinely impartial. Often independent experts are recipients of Euro-cash, working for the European Union or generally pro for other reasons. c) Use of certain types of people to put the two sides’ cases: e.g. using business people from large companies to present the “yes” case and small business or parochial figures to put the “no” case. Producers of the BBC’s widely-criticised “referendum street” insisted on having the “no” team led by David Mellor, despite the fact he had no standing in the sceptic movement and proved unable to work with the other sceptics chosen to take part in the programme.
David Mellor is a Europhiles dream. He lacks appeal of any kind and probably wins the pro side votes every time he appears on TV. I’m sure there are many other options that would offer far more voter appeal on the anti side.
e) Focus on process for “yes” campaigners but issues for sceptics. Sceptics are almost always asked “isn’t this really about leaving the EU?”, while “yes” campaigners are often asked, “why isn’t Blair doing more to campaign?” or “how will you turn around public opinion?
I like this one, as I have noticed it a lot. They ask leading questions to enable one side of the argument to appear positive, whilst challenge the other side, forcing them into a more aggressive stance. So after all this, is the BBC Biased? Are Vote No right in their accusations? I think so, but privatise the BBC and it will not matter anymore.

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