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Sunday 19 August 2012

Quiet Man Sprays On The Beeb

[Update at end of post]

Politicians whingeing about the treatment they get from across the media are not news. Nor are politicians whingeing about the BBC. They all complain: Tories allege left bias, Labour allege right bias, Lib Dems allege they’re not being taken seriously, and UKIP just allege, to be on the safe side. But now a Coalition Minister has spat out his dummy at the Corporation big time.

Iain Duncan Smith, formerly known as the “Quiet Man”, and whose occasional loss of voice caused Private Eye to nickname him “Iain Duncan Cough”, has suffered a meltdown of Fukushima Dai-Ichi proportions over the reporting of BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders at the time of the release of the latest unemployment figures. He says the Beeb has been “carping and moaning”.

So far, so prosaic, but in Duncan Smith’s complaint to Helen Boaden, the Corporation’s head of news, he has apparently resorted to some distinctly unparliamentary language in asserting that Ms Flanders was “peeing all over British industry”. Whether his language, as with that of Lyndon Johnson, had to be put through the laundry for public consumption is not known.

Duncan Smith is, as is any politician or indeed any citizen, entitled to take issue with the Corporation over its output. Where he appears to have a problem is understanding that there is a difference between the news that he, his advisors (something I will return to later) and other like minded politicians would like to hear, and the news that gives viewers and readers the full picture of what is going on.

When the unemployment numbers were released, there was – and not just at the BBC – some consternation as to how they could have gone down when the economy had been contracting. Explaining this was part of Ms Flanders’ job, so she consulted widely and gave viewers different explanations and points of view. Had she not done so, others would have complained about selective reporting.

Why that should deserve being accused of aligning the Corporation not just with the Labour Party, but directly with Tory hate figure “Auguste” Balls, is to some observers merely symptomatic of an increasing paranoia on the right, where the idea is taking hold that not only the Beeb, but also the Civil Service, is out to get them. And that may well, with Duncan Smith, come back to those advisors.

Following the 2010 General Election, his Department of Work and Pensions awarded a Special Advisor role to one Susie Squire, former spinner for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). So the Minister is constantly being given a picture of the world as the TPA sees it, along with what gives every impression of being a diet of dodgy figures. In the circumstances, his losing it with Ms Flanders is inevitable.

And the further inevitability is that it will get him precisely nowhere.

[UPDATE 20 August 1220 hours: just to show how on the ball they are, the Guido Fawkes blog has featured the complaint made by Duncan Smith - a day after Zelo Street. Not that it's a weekday blog that pretends to be a seven day operation, of course. I mean, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines took a break from his Wikipedia edit war yesterday to actually post something.

Sadly, that was a zero credibility item on a fantasy Tory/UKIP coalition, the kind of thing that those on the right dream of, but those of us who reside in The Real World know is tosh. And all that the item on the Duncan Smith complaint is doing is recycling old news with an added slant - with lots of nudge-nudgery and a photo of Stephanie Flanders, because she's on the telly, and the Fawkes blog isn't.

Someone needs to tell Staines and his pals that bias and talent are two different things. Another fine mess]

1 comment:

CTD said...

This should be pied into the Mail building