Monday, 6 June 2016

So journalists should be protected from legitimate concerns about impartiality?

Jeremy Corbyn gives a pro-EU speech on worker's rights which was generally well received and what were the headlines? - "Corbyn supporters boo BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg'' - this was the Guardian, but it was given prominence in just about all the mainstream media (MSM). The reaction of the media to the incident was wholly predictable - FT journalist Fred Pickard described the booing as "pathetic" and Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian referred to the 'booing' as"ugly". Some journos wasted no time in describing the booers as being "misogynist' - yet another smear against Momentum. Of course, if you were an MSM Corbyn basher you could also have argued it was an own goal because the headlines detracted from Corbyn's message - but then its the MSM which determine what the headlines are anyway.

So what is happening here? Well many Labour supporters and others, including me, think that there is a strong media bias against Corbyn and that it's particularly serious when it comes from the BBC in the form of Laura Kuenssberg. I haven't been keeping a log but I still listen to Today and PM regularly on the BBC and I've never known her to miss an opportunity to put the boot into Corbyn. Do I think her reporting is biased - you bet I do! And as a licence fee payer I strongly object to it. I am supported in this view by none other than a former chair of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons who was quoted in the Guardian. Referring to Corbyn:

He told the BBC’s The World at One: “I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this. [my italics]

Furthermore it seems that this view is backed up by research. So great has the concern been that 38 Degrees launched a petition calling for her to be sacked but the petition was shot down over allegations of 'sexism' thus sparing Kuenssberg, the BBC and the government considerable embarrassment. I saw an analysis of the comments on Twitter but I can't find the link, however it's clear that any sexist comments were in the minority and the vast majority who signed it expressed legitimate concerns.

So was the 'booing' justified? I think it probably was. I've watched the video and it's pretty restrained and comical if anything. It appears to be spontaneous rather than planned. Maybe those journalists who were in the room found it threatening? But then wouldn't they find any challenge to their integrity threatening? Reading the comments of Gaby Hinsliff it strikes me that journalists who have the luxury of inhabiting the cosy Westminster-MSM bubble have a sense of privilege and entitlement. They're the ones who know it all not the unwashed masses on Twitter - how dare anyone challenge them? Maybe they ought to get out more and mix with some people in the real world, people who are being screwed by austerity and to whom Corbyn offers some hope. And maybe they ought to think about reporting events with some degree of objectivity? Somehow I very much doubt they will.

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