Along with the continuing attacks on the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr has come yet another rather regrettable lapse in standards from the BBC. It was already clear that there were problems with the Corporation’s reporting of how the various Leave campaigns went about their less than totally legal business, even though there was partial redemption after Jo Corburn teased two serious giveaways out of mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott.
But one step forward, two steps back: after whistleblower Shahmir Sanni followed up his article in the Observer, in which he laid bare the smears orchestrated by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Beeb’s News Press Team once again intervened, even though there was no need for them to have done so.
“The BBC let the founder of @the_tpa have a 1 on 1 interview with @bbclaurak to slander me and my evidence. Now that we know the TPA conceded to launching a campaign of ‘extreme vilification’, will the BBC/Laura apologise for aiding unlawful acts?” Shami pointed out, which is true. Matthew Elliott was given a one on one with Laura Kuenssberg, in which he was allowed to pitch his spin, which was then given the veneer of factual accuracy.
Note that the BBC News Press Team is not tagged in that Tweet, but the TPA and Ms Kuenssberg are. And right on cue, back came that team: “The Observer has corrected the articles from last weekend, including the one you wrote, because of inaccurate claims about the BBC’s reporting. Laura is an outstanding political editor who was doing her job in her usual professional manner and has nothing to apologise for”.
Ri-i-i-i-ight. Susan Daniels pointed out the obvious flaw in this argument. “‘This article was amended on 13 November 2018 to clarify that Shahmir Sanni was criticised on more than one media platform.’ I’m afraid that neither clears the BBC, nor its employees. I like Laura. Nothing against her personally even if she focuses on the gossip a bit much IMHO”. Worse, references to the BBC in Ms Cadwalladr’s article the same day stand unaltered.
There are several worrying features in the Beeb rebuttal. One, the line taken mirrors that used by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog. Two, one of its Twitter accounts has made a statement that is demonstrably false. Three, the question of Elliott getting a one on one with Ms Kuenssberg is unchallenged. Four, he used that platform to spin the totally untrue line that VL had broken only rules, not laws.
Five, that apparent favouring of Vote Leave has already been the subject of a less than totally successful defence by the BBC head of live political programmes Rob Burley. Six, the same press team’s previous defence was shredded in short order. And Seven, Ms Kuenssberg is on record telling that she no longer reads her Twitter replies. The only other body tagged in Shahmir Sanni’s Tweet is the TPA. Er, HELLO?
So either the BBC News Press Team was monitoring on Ms Kuenssberg’s behalf, or they were alerted by … the TPA. What, pray, does that say about the Corporation’s duty of impartiality? Allowing Matthew Elliott to spin and leak his way out of trouble was unforgivable. Batting for the TPA would be beyond the pale.
Once again, we need answers. Once again, the BBC won’t be giving them. And that, as before, is not good enough.
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