BBC should reflect the choices of the electorate…

The proper role of journalists viz a viz politicians and the vexed question of what a legitimate question might be has been a point of discussion here for some time. It’s an important subject. In the past legislation north and south has put severe restrictions on journalism in Ireland. For Jim Gibney, true democracy and presumably by extension a truly free press can only take place in a united Ireland. But, in the meantime, he believes the BBC should reflect the political choices of the electorate:

Despite the huge, unforeseen and welcome political changes that have taken place in the past month the old order and the old way of thinking are also to be found in sections of the media. This has been most noticeable although not exclusively so in the commentary provided by the BBC especially in their flagship programmes Hearts and Minds and Let’s Talk.

Some of the print media also reflects analysis by journalists which suggests they are locked into old battles and prejudices and have not caught up with the new circumstances and mood created by the agreement between Sinn Féin and the DUP. And while the public have the ultimate sanction over these journalists by simply refusing to buy their paper the same approach does not apply to the BBC.

Other media outlets might aspire to be objective and claim they are. The BBC has to prove it is because it is funded by the licence-paying public. In theory BBC journalists do not have the same freedom to peddle their personal views. There is a public expectation that BBC journalists will be objective and their comments broadly reflect the mood of the licence-paying public.

He notes:

The licence-paying public overwhelmingly voted for an administration led by the DUP and Sinn Féin. Yet over the past month BBC journalists have harried Sinn Féin and DUP politicians with questions which are negative, which instil pessimism and could undermine the public’s hopeful mood.

Then cites:

The Gerry Adams-Ian Paisley press conference is viewed as an historical departure point; one of the most important breakthroughs since partition, paving the way for republicans and unionists to work together to peacefully resolve problems: a truly inspirational moment. But not for one BBC journalist who a few days later, amid the euphoria and optimism, asked Gerry Adams about the future existence of the IRA’s army council!

His question brought a swift and uncharacteristic put-down when Gerry Adams described it as “stupid”. Other stupid assertions followed with Sinn Féin and DUP politicians being accused by BBC journalists of selling out – on the one hand administering British rule or on the other being willingly on the road to a united Ireland.

On whose behalf are these questions being asked – the journalist or the public? What contribution are they making to the emerging new society on this island?

  • Pete Baker

    *ahem*

    I think this corrective by Peter Preston is appropriate

    Politicians and journalists may work, drink, dine and go on holiday together. Some journalists may even become politicians, or vice-versa. But the roles are separate, and essentially adversarial. Politicians run governments and seek to exercise power in the name of the people. Journalists serve those people directly day by day, for they are their readers and viewers. They do not, if they’re wise, want power for themselves. They do, though, have a direct hand in the workings of democracy. Their stock in trade is information (which, to be frank, the politicians wish to keep under wraps). Information is the lifeblood of freedom. It is also its most contentious commodity. Most battles between press and politics are really information wars.

    As it was when I previously noted Jim Gibney’s opinion on this..

  • SuperSoupy

    The issues raised are failed objectivity, bias and peddling personal views. That ain’t journalism to me and not something I accept being forced to buy as Jim correctly notes this is the case with the BBC.

    I have the option to ignore bias, subjectivity and personal propaganda from other outlets. With the BBC we are forced to pay for it.

    The point doesn’t seem to be about decent or investigative journalism but the forced payment for state journalism enforcing a narrative rather than presenting the story.

    Narrative shouldn’t be set by the BBC, not if they are demanding those dissenting from that narrative pay for the privlege.

    Though some seem to take offence for those that don’t have bias when the criticism is only directed at the select few who seem more suited to the narrative setting medium of blogging than informing the public of fact.

  • GavBelfast

    Depressing stuff from Gibney – sounds like something penned in a cold, foggy Gorky in about 1959.

  • Mick Fealty

    Soupy,

    Is this an argument for dropping the licence fee, or reform of the editorial policy of the BBC? If it is the latter, and you are arguing the setting of narrative should not lie with the Beeb, then whom should it lie with?

    It may be though that I’m just unsure of the distinction you make between a narrative and a story?

    I’ve argued that the work of journalists should be questioned, constantly. Kevin Marsh of the BBC argues today that that questioning is something journalists must embrace in order to strengthen their work.

    As for blogging, it is its distributive nature that’s the source of its power, not the capacity to hammer out a single authoritative narrative. Very different from the traditional press standard, which Jim refers to in his article.

    Henry Mencken once said, “freedom of the press is limited to those who own one”. Now press barons only have the privilege of insinuating their opinions into wider conversations.

    As you know better than most, I have long and often argued for a more civil interrogation of politicians by journalists. But such civic journalism also requires a reciprocal respect from politicians.

    Besides being inimical to the pluralist future Jim lays out above, I am not sure how narratives could be daily constructed so as to always chime with a single democratic outcome and actually remain journalism.

    As the saying goes: “Good fences make good neighbours”.

  • SuperSoupy

    Mick,

    It’s an either/or argument. As the BBC has an enforced subscription it should either be scrupulously neutral, absolutely balanced in any narrative set by it’s journalists or no longer funded publicly.

    The BBC unlike every other medium does not allow it’s audience the opportunity to cease buying the product if the don’t agree with tone, narrative or perceived bias.

    It is completely different from all other media. As a result standards of neutrality or absolute balance need enforced. That doesn’t need external input just strong editorial focus on those ends.

    If the BBC is unable to be absolutely balanced, neutral or objective then it should no longer receive compulsory funding from those who feel it offers a bias against their views.

    Some BBC journalists often adopt an agenda setting approach that should be beyond their remit as what are essentially public servants.

  • “BBC journalists have harried Sinn Féin and DUP politicians with questions which are negative, which instil pessimism and could undermine the public’s hopeful mood.”

    How patronising! It doesn’t take the BBC to undermine it. If anything, the BBC is largely responsible for creating this ‘hopeful mood’.

    Journalists are supposed to ask tough questions – that’s their job. It shouldn’t be a case of treating the DUP and Sinn Fein with the deference afforded the direct rule NIO ministers and others who get a soft ride, it should be a case of giving everyone else the same hard time!

    The role of the media is to shine a light on the a activities of politicians for us all to see and hold them to account. Gibeny seems to suggest he would prefer them to ignore certain facts if they are inconvenient to his own ideals.

    Gerry Adams’s pathetic “stupid” question remark is not that uncharacteristic – I remember not too long ago on a BBC programme (Let’s Talk?) he dismissed a question from an audience member (approximately early 20s) by telling him he was “too young to understand”.

    “one BBC journalist who a few days later, amid the euphoria and optimism, asked Gerry Adams about the future existence of the IRA’s army council!”

    Does Gibney seriously believe a large chunk of the electorate were not thinking the exact same thing?

  • páid

    The BBC employs some of the fairest, most dedicated and decent people in the media on these islands.

    É sin ráite, it is Irish Nationalism’s worst cultural enemy.

    We exist, not as a sovereign people determining our own future, but as a ‘region’ of the great Noel Edmonds nation.

    Everything they broadcast is strictly filtered by the charming, civilised, middle-class, Guardian-reading unknowing British nationalists in Shepherd’s Bush.

    They must be destroyed.

  • SuperSoupy

    “It shouldn’t be a case of treating the DUP and Sinn Fein with the deference afforded the direct rule NIO ministers and others who get a soft ride, it should be a case of giving everyone else the same hard time!”

    You end up supporting his argument. Equality or neutrality. You accept the bias but argue for extension of it.

    In the absence of that balance why should payment for bias be enforced?

  • gallonprunk

    “…over the past month BBC journalists have harried Sinn Féin and DUP politicians with questions which are negative, which instil pessimism and could undermine the public’s hopeful mood…”

    All social groups must unite in the name of Historical Progress! The objectives of the Five Year Plan are being achieved!

  • gallonprunk

    And SS… if journalists were tough and sceptical with everyone, in what universe would that represent “bias”?

  • Philip

    The Alliance Mayor has just quit his post in the DUP dominated Lisburn City Council. Does anyone know why?

  • Oilibhear chromaill

    What jim’s sf colleagues should do is get broadcasting devolved to stormont and thus shift this centre of cultural gravity from london to belfast. Only then will the transformation of journalistic and otger attitudes occur

  • againtthehead

    should the ban RTE’s subscription in the south? should RTE show more polish programme or more on british history?

    The BBC has probably the best news coverage in the world, cracking radio stations, and a fantastic website – for a 100 quid a year it’s the business.

    Compare it to the amateur graphics, endless adds and dull presenters on UTV – it’s a no contest.

    And just because DUP/SF get the votes, doesn’t mean they all of a sudden need to worshipped.
    No evidence to suggest this but in my opinion, people primarily vote for these idiots as a signal to the other side that their community is taking a strong stance. Not because of their policies (apart from sectarian of course).

    I voted DUP, but only because the UUP had no chance of winning the seat. I fully realise the DUP are a bunch of eejits, but there isn;t much of a viable alternative. SO when thompson et al get stuck into Robinson and collaberators I’m on the edge of my seat, lapping it up.

    As for getting the knives out for SF/DUP, haven’t you watched newsnight? BBC presenters ‘test’ their panalists with searching questions – not serving up slow ball after slow ball.

  • BonarLaw

    so partition was a breakthrough?

    for once I agree with JG!

    🙂

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    I realise this is a tangent of sorts but anybody care to comment on why, if policing can be devolved to the north, can’t broadcasting be similarly devolved from Westminster to Stormont?

  • Mick Fealty

    There is no question but that bias exists within the BBC. Biased BBC is a much respected website that has been tracking what it generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent within its reporting for years. And if it does exist, it is right that it should be exampled in the empirical way Biased BBC does.

    The abolition of the license fee is certainly a practical solution to that problem. But there is the problem that, as Brian Feeney eloquently tricked out in Wednesday’s Irish News, whilst our politicians can strike a pose on this issue there is nothing practical they can do about it. The licence fee is Westminster’s provenance.

    Which brings us back to the other solution. If Jim is arguing that the government should be accorded some dignity and respect, I cannot see a problem with that. Again, go back to that previous link where I have asked, “Does this popular interrogative style of interview always yield the fruit we often imagine it should?” In answer to my own question: no, I don’t think it does.

    Deeper than that, John Lloyd in the conclusion to his celebrated essay on politics in a democratic state and its relation to the media: “Politicians have the power of representing the electorate: they must pit it directly against those who draw their power from a less solid base”.

    Elsewhere Lloyd argues from journalism’s end that recognising this premise does not mean that journalists must become establishment or pro government. Rather, such journalism “takes on the responsibility of telling a whole truth. It means taking the initiative, and gaining an independent understanding of the world”.

    For me, independence rather than balance is the trademark of such engaged, civic journalism. But it also requires a new form of engaged civic politicians: prepared and able to defend their mandated authority, and prepared and able to answer for it too.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oili,

    It’s not at all tangential to Jim/Soupy’s argument. It’s dead on the money. Is it going to happen? Well it’s not on anyone’s manifesto, so I guess that’s your short answer.

    But in the blue sky context of some of the questions raised by Jim’s piece the first obstacle to be got over is how, as I asked above, can “narratives be daily constructed so as to always chime with a single democratic outcome and actually remain journalism”? Then I guess: is that really what any of the parties in Northern Ireland really want?

  • tok

    does he want fair and impartial journalism(if that is the right word to use) as was reflected in his mate Martins Daily Ireland.Sorry sinn fein and the DUP should always be scrutinised like everybody else

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    I believe that bias exists within the BBC but I would never want them or any other journalist to be forestalled from asking tough questions when they need to be asked. God knows there needs to be some sort of ‘opposition’ in place during powersharing.

    I do believe the more fundamental problems the BBC has is engaging with the entire community in the north and I resent the Belfast London axis. There should be a link of course but there should also be an equal link with Dublin. And, of course, there should be an attempt to have some balance in terms of less of the blue skies over ‘ulster’ and grey skies over the rest of Ireland narrative.

    I see this as becoming an increasingly important issue and while I don’t see Northern Ireland Broadcasting Corporation replacing the BBC in the short term, it should happen in the medium term.

    And then the real fun will start….

  • Joe

    “Biased BBC” is a much respected website? You misspelt “one-note, green-ink, queer-bashing, misogynist, racist fruitcakes”, Mick.

  • Mick Fealty

    Joe, you obviously need to get out more, not to mention read Slugger’s Commenting Policy.

    SSR, try and comment on the subject (you are a more than capable critic) and leave the personal beefs to one side, please!!

  • jone

    OC what do you actually mean by ‘devolving broadcasting to Stormont?’

    As it stands the BBC is managed locally with it’s Controller reporting directly to a man from Donegal. The Trust and Ofcom also have representation from here.

    I’m just curious as to precisely which functions of the DCMS could be usefully taken out of Whitehall and given to Stormont?

    Also if anyone can be arsed to look it up on the Irish News archive the BBC’s local news boss wrote a letter of reply to Gibney’s crypto Leninist shite.

  • kensei

    “There is no question but that bias exists within the BBC. Biased BBC is a much respected website that has been tracking what it generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent within its reporting for years. And if it does exist, it is right that it should be exampled in the empirical way Biased BBC does. ”

    Have you been drinking this morning or something? Bias certainly exists within the BBC but it is by no means clear it is consistent in nature or attitude, and certainly having people of any type projecting their own views onto articles screaming “Left wing bias!! Left wing bias!!” is no use whatsoever in finding it. In fact, if you want to point to the bias on “Biased BBC”, it is fairly clear where it actually lies.

    An alternative view on BBC bias:

    http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/johann_hari/article2434962.ece

  • Oillibhear Chromaill

    I think that the BBC in Belfast should be independent of London and that while I recognise that the controller in Belfast reports to a man from Donegal, that fellow, whose name escapes me momentarily, is based in London or someother place in Britain. It’s only a coinicidence that its a man from Donegal – and it has to be pointed out that he’s engaged in climbing up the greasy pole in the BBC in Britain and perhaps his priorities aren’t the local priorities here.

    When, for instance, the BBC in Belfast requires extra money, as it says it does, for Irish language programming, it has to go, cap in hand, to London to request this from BBC Trust. That’s not satisfactory. BBC NI should get its slice of the Licence Fund pie directly, not filtered through middle managaement in Britain.

    Sure have an arrangement whereby some of the news etc comes from London – but British news should have a lower priority than news from Ireland, all of Ireland. That’s a cultural and psychological inclination rather than the structural – but it needs to be tackled and allowing Stormont control over broadcasting in the north and the funds necessary is essential to the north developing its own identity and not one which is artificially linked to Britain.

  • I Wonder

    It strikes me that the criticism of the BBC as being too liberal or too left wing is increasingly restricted to the lunatic fringes of the far right.

    I have no problem whatsoever with the BBC acuurately reflecting opposition to devolution and the peace process by allocating a percentage of airtime to those opponents in proportion to the % of the electorate who expressed such opposition in in the last elections.
    That would mean never having to watch or listen to Bob McCartney, Cedric Wilson or David Vance ever agin. Who could want more? 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    I really wish you would read my posts, rather than para read them. For the record: “what it* generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent”. As for the accusation that BBBC is purely polemical, well it is to an extent, but it is much more empirical than you are portraying it. Indeed the whole site is a practical response to the top quote on the right hand side from Andrew Marr.

    As for this: “it is fairly clear where it actually lies”. This is sheer, throughother and downright lazy commentary. I don’t doubt you genuinely feel that way, but just saying what feel doesn’t make it true.

    *Biased BBC.

  • Ziznivy

    OC’s,

    [Editorial snip for the sake of civility – Moderator]

    Au contraire, we have far too many regional variations. Who hasn’t had the desire to chew the remote control into a mangled pulp whenever MOTD has been bumped back to the small hours due to the baldy charismaless pate of John Daly or some such?

  • kensei

    “I really wish you would read my posts, rather than para read them. For the record: “what it* generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent”.”

    I’m sorry I refuse to get into a game of splitting hairs.

    “Biased BBC is a much respected website that has been tracking what it generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent within its reporting for years.”

    is a free ride for you about a controversial issue.

    “As for the accusation that BBBC is purely polemical, well it is to an extent, but it is much more empirical than you are portraying it. Indeed the whole site is a practical response to the top quote on the right hand side from Andrew Marr.

    As for this: “it is fairly clear where it actually lies”. This is sheer, throughother and downright lazy commentary. I don’t doubt you genuinely feel that way, but just saying what feel doesn’t make it true. ”

    No, it is fact, Mick. The BBBC spends it’s time looking for left wing bias in the BBC. Of course it is going to find it. If I set up a website looking for right wing bias, I 100% guarantee you I would find it too, and I’d have empirical evidence to back it up. The article I linked to suggests as much. The bias is within the actual method you are using. If you just looking for left wing bias, you miss the right wing bias, centrist bias and everything else, along with the overall picture. When you are partisan, you begin to project your own interpretation and ideas onto things. The bias is in the actual methodology, at the most fundamental level.

    That doesn’t mean they can’t raise issues worthy of debate. But in and of itself it’s not enough.

    I just wish Mick you weren’t such as sucker for all the Web 2.0 nonsense.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    You misread, misquoted and then misrepresented what I had written. It was not about split hairs or bias, it was just plain untrue.

    As for flawed methodologies, I get your point and it’s an interesting one… The reason I quoted the BBBC was as an exemplar relating to earlier comments in the thread (and in the article under discussion) suggesting that there should be no bias in the BBC whatsoever.

    As yet no one has come up with a reliable methodology for marking out unacceptable levels of bias (right or left) and how that might be implemented. Without that, and short of the kind of privatisation Soupy is suggesting, I don’t see how the issues Gibney raises can be practically addressed.

  • kensei

    “You misread, misquoted and then misrepresented what I had written. It was not about split hairs or bias, it was just plain untrue.”

    No, *you’ve* misread me.

    What you said:

    “There is no question but that bias exists within the BBC. Biased BBC is a much respected website that has been tracking what it generally sees as a pro left, anti right bent within its reporting for years. And if it does exist, it is right that it should be exampled in the empirical way Biased BBC does. “”

    To sum – BBBC is “well respected” and it’s methods are empirical and objective.

    Me:

    “Bias certainly exists within the BBC but it is by no means clear it is consistent in nature or attitude, and certainly having people of any type projecting their own views onto articles screaming “Left wing bias!! Left wing bias!!” is no use whatsoever in finding it. n fact, if you want to point to the bias on “Biased BBC”, it is fairly clear where it actually lies”

    It’s a little messy, but what I was trying to get across was – bias is there, but people projecting their own views by focusing on a specific political agenda are going to be fuck all use in finding the true biases of the Beeb.

    I also couldn’t believe you came out with it, and for ignoring the fact that the “well respected BBBC” is held in contempt by as many people as it is respected by.

    So, please tell me how exactly I misquoted you, when I gave all of the relevant paragraph – about the utility of the BBBC and it’s ilk, which was all I was talking about. I was challenging you a specific point, rather than the whole argument.

    “As yet no one has come up with a reliable methodology for marking out unacceptable levels of bias (right or left) and how that might be implemented.”

    That would be because there is no entirely objective way to determine if there is bias in reporting, let alone measure the extent of it. is there an objective bias, or is it really relative to the centre of electorate? The BBC can’t stray too far from what the public wants in any area, because if it does, bye bye Licence Fee. Does the cynicism that can creep into political interviews really drive people’s views, or simply reflect it?

    At any rate, it seems to me the gradual opening up of the media with regards viewer interaction will more effectively provide a “reflection of the choices of the electorate”. Bottom-up rather than top-down.

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, thanks for the clarification, it was probably me reading too much into your mildly uncivil intro. I think I’ve read one too many of those today… and I haven’t even had my first drink of the day!!

    I do, though, have some serious regard for the BBBC site, even if I personally don’t entirely share their world view. It is moderately well read inside the corporation, and I’m fairly sure that it and other similar sites are having an effect: certainly in terms of what gets discussed and how it is framed on radio and tv.

    I don’t demur too much from your basic argument that it basically has to self regulate. But where does that leave Jim’s concerns?

  • kensei

    “I don’t demur too much from your basic argument that it basically has to self regulate. But where does that leave Jim’s concerns?”

    I think they are ultimately unfounded. The process is ultimately two way; the political mood will reflect the news agenda which will reflect the political mood. Sometimes one will fall a bit behind the other – eventually they’ll catch up. It should be noted it can happen the other way too – optimistic voices drowning out skeptics. That has happened with economy to an extent, North and South, over the past while.

  • jone

    OC you say ‘Sure have an arrangement whereby some of the news etc comes from London – but British news should have a lower priority than news from Ireland, all of Ireland. ‘

    I think the problem here is that no matter how much you wish NI was part of a different polity for now it’s part of the British polity and for very practical reasons that effects what news gets reported.

    For example, like most everyone living in NI I have a sterling mortgage so I want to know what the BoE are doing with the interest rates and I want to know what economists in Britian are saying about the likely direction of interest rates. Conversely I really couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss what the ECB does.

    Similarly like it or not my kids, like most people’s kids here will be doing GCSEs and A Levels so if Westminster are proposing reforms to those systems I want to know about it. But if the Dail is talking about tinkering with the Leaving, really I couldn’t care less.

  • Reader

    Gibney: The licence-paying public overwhelmingly voted for an administration led by the DUP and Sinn Féin.
    SF/DUP aren’t a party – they aren’t even really a coalition. They agree on very little, and each of them is waiting for the other to fail to support the system. So why should the BBC trust SF more than the DUP does, and why should the BBC trust the DUP more than SF does?

  • Jone replied ably to Ollie’s suggestion that news from the Republic should take precedence over UK news.

    But I still feel we could use a little more coverage of the major stories in the southern state. Clearly we can be spared southern tabloid pabulum, but if there are major financial or political scandals (I gather they happen quite frequently), even a basic run-down of what it’s all about might be helpful – if only to illustrate the benefits of devolution!

    What’s southern coverage of the North like? Have they even started to use the term “Northern Ireland”?

  • Sarah

    “But the roles are separate, and essentially adversarial. ”

    Anyone who has ever seen the media’s love in with Peter Mandelson just cannot believe that!

  • IJP

    I don’t agree with the piece.

    The media’s essential role is to scrutinize, not to oppose. Those are two different things.

  • oilibhear Chromaill

    one replied ably to Ollie’s suggestion that news from the Republic should take precedence over UK news.

    But I still feel we could use a little more coverage of the major stories in the southern state. Clearly we can be spared southern tabloid pabulum, but if there are major financial or political scandals (I gather they happen quite frequently), even a basic run-down of what it’s all about might be helpful – if only to illustrate the benefits of devolution!

    What’s southern coverage of the North like? Have they even started to use the term “Northern Ireland”?

    Reporting the ‘bad’ news – or anything which reflects poorly on Irish culture – has been the main point of BBC news coverage of the south for the past several years, as far as I can remember it. Their coverage of the Dingle/Daingean wrange was nothing short of sheer anti Irish propoganda.

    I don’t expect anything but propoganda which promotes a very narrow interpretation of Britishness from the BBC, especially in Ireland, at present which is why I want to fundamentally change the relationship between Belfast and London, broadcasting wise.

    I think it’s important that the broadcaster is answerable only to viewers in the north and its funding comes directly from the licence fund – and isn’t filtered through London.

    And, again, I ask, why should broadcasting remain a ‘reserved matter’ as policing is to be devolved?

  • abucs

    I think it’s pretty well understood that the media worked out quite a long time ago that they can move from reporting the news to leading it.

    Sometimes i can sympathise, such as with Alan Johnstone being kidnapped in Gaza and BBC and friends reporting updates constantly for a month even when there were no updates (which was most of the time). Fair enough, I would have done that too.

    Other times though, such as the strong pushing for Paul Wolfowitz to resign from the world bank led, made and created the news in my opinion.

    I am no friend of the Bush administration, especially with regards to Iraq, but it’s pretty obvious if Wolfowitz wasn’t involved with that administration and the Iraq fiasco, the BBC in particular, would not have given this relative non-story so much coverage and created the push for his resignation.

    I personally feel the press have a huge amount of power to ‘make the world in their own image’ so to speak. And they try, for good or ill.

    I wonder, (not saying mind you), if the NI peace may have come sooner, if the reporting of certain parties was done with less caricature ??

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gibney writes:

    And while the public have the ultimate sanction over these journalists by simply refusing to buy their paper the same approach does not apply to the BBC.

    Applying a free market solution here does not quite wash. The print media are accountable to the companies and corporations who choose to advertise in them, and this introduces corresponding bias in their output. I’d take the BBC’s accountability to a democratically elected parliament any day.

    The licence-paying public overwhelmingly voted for an administration led by the DUP and Sinn Féin. Yet over the past month BBC journalists have harried Sinn Féin and DUP politicians with questions which are negative, which instil pessimism and could undermine the public’s hopeful mood.

    Apparently we’re all supposed to join hands and worship the new dawn brought to us by the benevolent DUP and Sinn Fein, the very people who brought us the 30 years of misery that preceded it, something like praising a man who agrees to stop raping his wife. Clearly Jim has no respect for the stupid sheep-like general public who he obviously believes lack the intelligence to make their own minds up about the work of our politicians and the nature of the line the media are taking in that respect, and whom he implies need to be protected from the machinations of the evil BBC. This stuff is straight out of the USSR in the good old days. Accuse anyone who criticizes the regime as being an Enemy of the People. It’s a well-worn tactic.

    But not for one BBC journalist who a few days later, amid the euphoria and optimism, asked Gerry Adams about the future existence of the IRA’s army council!

    Davenport was completely right to ask this question, since it had been posed on the same day by Jim Allistair who had resigned from the DUP. The reaction that Davenport got said a lot more than any other reason he might have had for asking the question.

    Other stupid assertions followed with Sinn Féin and DUP politicians being accused by BBC journalists of selling out – on the one hand administering British rule or on the other being willingly on the road to a united Ireland.

    These are questions which would have been posed to Sinn Fein election workers on the doorsteps. Why shouldn’t the BBC ask them ?

    Mick:

    The abolition of the license fee is certainly a practical solution to that problem.

    The BBC may not be any less biased in that case; it just wouldn’t be funded by the public anymore. I don’t think that counts as practical solution.

    I think the BBC is a bit like the NHS in that it provides a standard of sorts for the private sector to keep up with. I don’t want to misdirect the thread into a USA-vs-UK healthcare debate, but I think that private hospitals and clinics are forced to be competitive due to the fact that you can get similar treatment for free in the NHS. Likewise, the BBC provides a standard against which other media are measured. I’m quite convinced that if it were taken away, there would be an overall reduction in the standard of the news media in the UK.

    As you well know yourself Mick, often accusations of bias are less to do with concern about partiality, and more to do with people getting sore when the media reports a perspective that they don’t like. How often does Slugger get accused of either unionist or nationalist bias ? Murdoch consistently refuses to address the glaring biases in his own media; the BBC confront them head on and debate them (and so does Slugger).

  • Gonzo

    As far as Gibney goes, he seems to be trying to create cover for SF and the DUP. These ‘negative’ questions often come about as the result of the massive U-turns in those two parties. His article is designed to deflect such awkward questions, because they expose the parties. The questions expose just how wrong those two parties were about their fundamentals for so long.

    And no-one like being reminded about how they changed their mind totally on their most fundamental beliefs.

    On another point, since our Assembly is merely an administrative type of body – ie doling out the limited budget given to it by London – one of the obvious questions for Ministers after every new initiative will be: “So how are you going to pay for this? What services will we be losing to facilitate this new one?”

    One wonders if asking such ‘negative’ questions to Ministers will result in reporters being labelled Journalists Against The Peace Process again.

  • I wonder…

    The benefit of “administration” is that DUP/SF negotiation will be required on issues on which both parties have constituency interests.

    The SF belief that “economies of scale” are achievable if one takes an all-Irleand perspective will be tested in due course. Similary, the DUP/Robbo focus on “efficiency” will inevitably involve consideration of job losses. Prod jobs as well.

  • Comrade Stalin

    One wonders if asking such ‘negative’ questions to Ministers will result in reporters being labelled Journalists Against The Peace Process again.

    Indeed, I’m away to make up my “Pete Baker was right” badges 😉

  • bertie

    It is not up to the BBC to reflect voting figures. For one thing voters vote to elect politicians not newsreaders. The BBC should be trying to explore divesrse opinions. If they seek to reflect past voting proeferences. They will be bolstering up the status quo.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “BBC should reflect the choices of the electorate…”

    Aye right. Jim would have been all in favour of that POV when Unionists won critical votes in 1921, 1973, 1986, and indeed when the DUP were temporarily anti-Agreement and top party.

    Just like a few weeks ago the people should be allowed to use the name “Derry” as their right
    to express their culture, but now there is to be no alternative, and any civil servant using the name Londonderry in Conor Murphy’s office is to be kneecapped…er, suspended.Freedom of Speech, eh Jim?

    We all know the Beeb already has a political agenda,which is whatever the NIO writes for it. I well remember when the GFA was leaked early a senior Unionist told me it would go to the beeb fractionally before the rest “for services rendered”. The best efforts of others to brown nose on a comparable scale have- as yet- not been so richly rewarded.

    The lack of any serious scrutiny of Gibney’s party’s involvement in criminality over the past 20 years is a damning indictment of journalism in the BBC. In fact the only times the hacks have showed any “courage” (that wasn’t Dutch of course) is in trendy snook-cocking ( or is that cock-snooking?)at hamfisted bans or remote cabinet ministers.
    We may presume that there will be no serious scrutiny of the excesses of Murphy and other ministers from any party- no opposition in parliament- none but the most obvious cockups making the news.

    Yup the beeb will be happy to present Conor Bradford’s ever so slightly dry sketches as cutting edge journalism, while more sinister forces continue to socially engineer in the shadows