Wednesday, 15 August 2007

No Bias at the Beeb

On Sunday, Iain Dale had a go at the BBC over the way it presented the Tories putative plans on red tape and business. He pointed out that one item had led with
Labour has condemned...
thereby presenting the story from Labour's point of view. In my experience this is a frequent habit of the Beeb but, unlike most of Dale's rightwing comment posters, I think that it shows deference to the party in power, rather than to Labour itself. When the Tories were in power, the Beeb was just as bad.

Now the Beeb has responded, denying bias but admitting that showing old footage of Tory John Redwood not knowing the words to the welsh national anthem was not on. Dale has claimed victory, in spite of the BBC saying that the item he picked out was not representative.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Spreading Fear

The don't panic line is not exciting enough for the Guardian, which is getting in a bit of a twist. Its headline

Kent farm isolated as foot and mouth fears spread

suggests that something is spreading, i.e. fears about the disease, while the intro has it that the fear is that the disease has spread.
Livestock at a farm in Kent were today tested for foot and mouth amid fears the disease had spread from an initial, apparently controlled outbreak in Surrey.

Don't Panic - official

The BBC reports another suspected foot and mouth case, this time in Kent, with a strong hint that nothing will come of it.

Minister for the South East Jonathan Shaw told BBC radio Kent:
"There is no need to panic at this stage."
He will let us know when the need to panic arises.

Wintour 4 Brown

The Guardian has an interesting story about Gordon Brown's spending promises since coming to the throne and the possible link with his increased popularity.

But this line, from Patrick Wintour, looks like it was written in Downing Street.
These spending levels do not imply that the Treasury is going to break the already announced commitment to increase public spending by only 1.9% a year through the three years of the spending review, but they do show the advantages of a coherent relationship between Treasury and No 10.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Campbell's back

Gerry Adams once reassured republicans that the IRA hadn't gone away. Neither has Alastair Campbell. The Times reports that rail operator First Group threatened to sue a watchdog for libel if it complained about its poor performance.
First Group, Britain’s biggest bus and train operator, has formed close links with senior Labour figures. It employs Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman, to advise on “strategic communications” and has engaged David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, to chair a commission that is expected to give strong backing to the company’s yellow school buses. First Group has refused to say how much the two are paid.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Dull Brown

The Telegraph has a quite blatantly made-up story about how Gordon Brown has chosen some very dull pictures for No. 10. It's very easy - and right wing people love doing it - to assert someone's inferiority based on subjective judgements.

Unforturnately the article links to a pre-succession story about how the public were sceptical about "dull" Brown:
As the figures in the chart show, a mere 12 per cent find Mr Brown remotely engaging. More than five times that proportion, 66 per cent, reckon he is "dullsville".
"Dullsville" doesn't acually appear in the poll by the way. This is one of those interesting uses of quote marks that doesn't mean that a quotation is being used but the opposite, that no-one has actually said the word or phrase in question. You sometimes see it advertisements and promotional material, where it looks as if someone has said something good about the firm/product in question but it's actually made-up.

In the real world the Telegraph reports that dull Gordon's Labour party has a ten point lead over the Conservatives. You have to read quite a long way into the article to find out that the poll was actually done for the Sunday Times.

Spinning for the Pentagon

The Sunday Times leaves no doubt which side it is on in the propaganda war over the five people at Guantanamo Bay who are (were) British residents but not nationals.

Clive Stafford Smith, who represents the men, said: “This is a blatant attempt to smear my clients.”

Cooking up a dossier (in a positive sense)

The Observer's story today about poor hygiene in hospital kitchens shows us why we need a Freedom of Information Act.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Enough already

The BBC reports that a new tool can "fix" photos that have annoying stuff in the way, filling in what would be there with imagery culled from the net.

If you are going to do this, why bother taking pictures at all? Why go on holiday at all? Why not just stay home and source pictures of where you would have gone?

And don't we have enough ways of faking stuff already?

Blairism is a state of mind

Neal Lawson is getting excited on Comment is Free about the possibility of a seismic shift in British politics.

What is interesting for me is the way that he portrays Blairism as a mindset, and a very defeatist one at that.

Double plus ungood

The Times has two lots of negative spin on the Brown government's decision to request the return of the 5 people at Guantanamo Bay who are UK residents but not nationals.

In a news story, it claims that the men will pose a security headache in the UK and will be subject to surveillance.

Meanwhile Bronwen Maddox tells us that the government has actually lost a game of bluff.

Monday, 6 August 2007

De Klerk in the dock

The Guardian reports that former South African president FW De Klerk is finally being implicated in the death squads that his apartheid government ran even as it was talking peace.

De Klerk is upset that this doesn't fit with the myth he has created of himself as a great statesman:
The former president said the accusations were intended to strip him, and the 70% of whites who supported his reforms in a 1992 referendum, of an "honourable place at the table as co-creators of the new South Africa".

A role model

The model Jordan/Katie Price has been criticised for a blatant bit of product placement for baby milk, according to the Independent. OK magazine is also complicit.

It's sad to think that there are people who are shallow enough to be influenced by Jordan but there are lots of them: OK readers.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Mrs Goggins in a spin

The Telegraph reports that the Post Office has been caught bullying sub-postmasters into toeing the official line on closures with the threat of losing their compensation.

Alan Duncan for the Conservatives has decided that Gordon Brown is to blame and while it's tempting to look for another example of Brown spinning after all, I can't really agree with him.

Spinning for the police (2)

More Police spin in the Times today, which reports that:

Relations between the police and the independent watchdog set up to investigate them are at breaking point, senior sources have told The Times.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) faced a backlash after publishing its critical report into Scotland Yard’s handling of information about the shooting of an innocent man the day after the July 21 attempted bombings in London.
It's not entirely clear what the IPCC have done to deserve a backlash beyond publishing a report critical of Scotland Yard. But one Senior Office is allowed to allege, anonymously of course,

“There’s a real feeling that they were looking for a scapegoat."

Another free hit for the police, making your criticism off the record with no comeback.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

(half) The truth comes out

Yesterday the Guardian was spinning to the Defence of Andy Hayman, who apparently misled both the public and Met Commissioner Ian Blair over the identity of the man killed by police at Stockwell. Blair reminded us today that he had said before that if he had lied he wouldn't be fit to hold office, but he has full confidence in Hayman. Hmmm...

On the Iraq dossier, John Scarlett was the fall guy with the bungee rope. Scooter Libby did it even better. Hayman takes the fall and Blair gets away with it. Hayman gets away with it. Win - win.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

The truth about fake TV

More4 News had an interesting short film tonight asking whether a lot of standard tricks in tv news reporting are actually lying. As someone who recently stood outside the High Court to make a film without having been in, it made me think.

But it's almost inevitable that the stuff people are owning up to isn't that bad.

Spinning for the police

The Guardian helps the police get their retaliation in first on the "Stockwell 2" inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

There has also been private criticism of the way the IPCC has conducted its first high-profile investigation since the watchdog body was reformed and made independent of the police.

"This was London in the grips of an attack, two weeks after another terrorist attack had killed 52 people," said one source. "Four men were on the run who could have attacked again, the events of the day were extremely fast moving. There is a sense that the IPCC, having failed to recommend any action against any of the officers involved in the shooting itself needed a scapegoat."

"Private criticism" is a favourite tool of the Guardian's political reporters. It means that someone can have a free hit at their opponent without comeback.

And the Guardian tells us:

in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, sources say there were unconfirmed rumours that the man who had been killed may not have been one of the four suicide bombers being hunted. Mr Hayman is criticised by the IPCC for not passing this on to Mr Blair at a briefing he had with him at 6pm that night.

However, senior sources question how he could have passed on the unsubstantiated rumours at that stage.

We'll have to wait and see whether "unconfirmed rumours" and "unsubstantiated rumours" are valid descriptions of the information that the police had at that point. In the first place, there was never a positive identification of De Menezes as one of the suspects so the starting point was that he "may not have been one of the four suicide bombers being hunted". But surely the police had solid ID evidence almost immediately.

Or perhaps the police were more incompetent than we thought. Perhaps with four men on the run who could have attacked again they failed to check that the one they thought they had accounted for was actually one of them.