An article by Christopher Hope, writing in the Telegraph, points out that a BBC Controller stated that so much of the political “outpourings” are incomprehensible to the “man in the street”. This occurred during a hearing by the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) who were querying what they perceived as a lack of coverage by the BBC of their work as an important select committee.
The proceedings of this hearing can be viewed here, those from the BBC being Ric Bailey, Chief Adviser, Politics, Mary Hockaday, Head of Newsroom, and Peter Knowles, Controller, BBC Parliament. Attempts were made by the ESC to pin the BBC down on the matter of bias and what the ESC viewed as poor editorial judgement – all to no avail. This was not surprising when one bears in mind the convoluted and almost impenetrable questions that were asked – something about which Peter Knowles from the BBC had a point when he said parliamentarians language was nothing but acronyms and “legal speak”.
William Cash questioned whether BBC interviewers were fed “the line to take” and if so who by – a suggestion that was hotly denied, with the added information that all BBC journalists were provided with a “European Course” in order that they were able to deal with matters EU. What was not picked up by the ESC was the question of why, if BBC journalists were so well briefed it never seemed to be mentioned in their reports or questioning instances where politicians had obviously been economical with the actualité. In this regard one thinks back to Cameron’s assertion about Norway being liable to “fax government”. The fact BBC journalists don’t can but lead one back to Cash’s question because the omission can only mean that either the journalists concerned know not the subject with which they are dealing or they do, in fact, report under what may be termed “guidelines” – and if so, in respect of the latter, on what “guidance” and who issued it.
Digressing slightly, on the subject of demonstrating that being economical with the actualité one has to ask why it appears it is bloggers that do all this work, work involving basic research that could easily be done by journalists, yet the work by bloggers is never reported – yet we all know that journalists do read blogs, which begs the question why the truth never surfaces.
It is all very well for Peter Knowles to state that a perceived lack of programmes dealing with the EU is due to the complexity of the subject matter – which begs another question namely, might not the BBC be providing a public service were it to instigate a series of simple – and I hasten to add, unbiased – guides to the European Union, its construct, its effect on sovereignty and democracy and listing the areas in which it does have an effect on the lives of people. What had appeared to escape Knowles’ attention is that he is faced with a “chicken and egg” situation where his dilemma is concerned.
Mary Hockaday may well maintain that as Head of News her editorial focus is on matters of importance, in which case I am surprised the ESC did not pick up on the point that John Stanley had William Hague “on the mat” yesterday during a hearing by the Foreign Affairs Committee over the use of Article 50 where any renegotiation of powers was concerned. I have yet to see any reference or article on the BBC about what is an extremely important point – perhaps Mary Hockaday was only Mary Hock yesterday – ie, she’d had aday off?