Complaints to the BBC Trust are in the category of Stuff That Happens for the Corporation, and unlike the now-discredited PCC, there is no question of the Trust being some kind of obedient poodle that will whitewash bias and dishonesty to order. So when the Trust criticised a documentary fronted by veteran John Humphrys, on the narrow point of quoting statistics to back up its stance, this was hardly news.
But, because of a characteristically petty intervention from Tory statistics misuse specialist supreme Iain Duncan Cough, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has erupted in righteous fury. “BBC Attacks Humphrys For Telling The Truth On Welfare” thundered today’s front page, setting the tone at the outset by conflating the BBC and the BBC Trust, which as any fule kno are two separate bodies.
What is the problem here? “The BBC Trust found that the programme failed to back up controversial views with statistics” was the criticism, but “there was no evidence that Humphrys advocated the coalition government's reforms” and “the programme was ‘fair’ and ‘open-minded’ in its examination of the evidence, that there was a ‘wide range of significant views’”.
Every day, and in every way, I'm getting better and better. Wibble. Oh f***, back in the c***ing straitjacket!
All of this suggests that not only was the criticism not particularly severe, but also that Humphrys’ presentation was far superior to the kind of falsehood and misinformation that one might read in the pages of, oh I dunno, how about the Daily Mail? The same paper that now asserts “The BBC was accused of ‘blatant Left-wing bias’ after bosses attacked one of their most respected journalists”.
But there was no attack, and no bosses were involved. Moreover, the only claim of bias came from Duncan Cough, who, although the Mail cannot apparently get its head round the concept, is not exactly free of bias himself. The personal view of one right-wing politician is all Dacre has to proclaim that there is now a “new row” about the Corporation’s alleged “left wing bias”.
This is then amplified in a Daily Mail Comment which goes off the Totally Gaga scale: “Proof positive that the BBC is biased ... balanced analysis was ... an aberration ... Left-dominated Editorial Standards Committee ... parody-defying ruling ... institutionally unfit ... chilling ... monolithic Corporation ... This cannot be healthy for British democracy”.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “as the printed Press faces demands for draconian statutory controls, the truth is that the giant BBC has no regulatory controls – the politically correct, supine trust apart”. They’ve created strange ways to get their jollies in the world of Paul Dacre. And to think that some men just make do with a lad’s mag and a hanky.
How long before the Rothermeres cause him to retire – for his own good?