Accompanying the disquiet at the BBC’s bizarre framing of the Spanish election results has been a judgment from Ofcom into complaints made against the Corporation almost exactly two years ago, and involving its best known political interviewer. The upshot is that, once again, viewers’ faith in the Beeb is shaken, and the reputation that interviewer has for having facts at his fingertips begins to look just a little suspect.
As i News has told, “A BBC interview in which Andrew Neil called Scottish primary school children ‘functionally illiterate’ misled viewers and was a serious breach of the broadcasting code, Ofcom has ruled … The watchdog upheld complaints over the Sunday Politics exchange between the BBC presenter and former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, which took place in the run-up to the May 2017 general election”.
Do go on. “Debating the record of the Scottish administration, Neil asked: ‘If services have been so well protected, why after a decade of SNP rule do one in five Scots pupils leave primary school functionally illiterate?’”. There was only one problem: Brillo was wrong. Worse for the Beeb, “The contention was pressed again during the interview”.
Alex Salmond - presented with misleading question
Then comes the really bad news for the BBC. “However the BBC accepted that the figure was drawn from the 2009 Scottish Survey for Literacy and Numeracy, which was not the most recent research into school attainment, and should not have been quoted in the programme … Furthermore, it ‘should have been made clear that the phrase “functionally illiterate” was not used in that report and that its source was the education spokeswoman of the Scottish Conservatives.’” Quoting Tory party propaganda as fact.
The regulator was unimpressed. “Ofcom ruled that Mr Neil ‘misrepresented statistics on literacy among Scottish primary school children in a way that would have had the potential to affect negatively and erroneously viewers’ understanding’ … Ofcom also said it was ‘concerned that the BBC did not act sooner to correct the statement’ during an election period and should take action to improve its response to complaints during elections”.
Brillo, to no surprise, does not accept that he seriously misled anyone. Sadly, it’s Ofcom and not Ipso that he’s arguing against, and so his pleading will get him nowhere. But it’s not just the BBC that gets negative feedback here. So does Ofcom.
As Jim Waterson of the Guardian put it, “Ofcom has published an *18 page* investigation into a disputed Scottish education statistic mentioned by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Sunday Politics on *30 April 2017*, after a viewer complained. (Ofcom concluded it did mislead viewers. But that’s a long time to rule on one claim.)” Two years, in fact.
Small wonder that Dan Sabbagh responded to Waterson “Good thing they don't regulate politicians”. Well, quite. Even less politics would get done, if such a thing were imaginable in the current climate. But more bad news for the Beeb, and it will come as no surprise to seasoned Zelo Street regulars: Brillo has been here before (see HERE).
As Steve Bray might have put it, it’s not going very well, is it? Must try harder, BBC.
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