BBC whitewashes ‘government propaganda’ NHS story



Back at the end of September the BBC News website ran a story on 91-year-old Harry Smith’s speech to the Labour Party Conference, in which he detailed the miserable state of healthcare before the arrival of the NHS and stated his fears for the future of the service under the Conservative Party.

This was all fine. What a shame Auntie’s unnamed reporter had to spoil it by adding in two extra paragraphs that parroted – almost word-for-word – comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that seemed to contradict what Mr Smith had said. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, put the statements into an image, allowing people to compare Mr Hunt’s statements with the BBC’s. That image is reproduced again here:


The BBC report was clearly paraphrasing Mr Hunt’s words. No attempt was made to indicate that this was the government’s side of the issue; the offending paragraphs were stationed at the end – as statements of facts that contradict Mr Smith’s words.

That’s blatant government propaganda, in the view of this blog – especially as both statements are false.

That’s right – analyse the facts and Mr Hunt’s/the BBC’s assertions fall apart.

Did the government increase NHS spending in the UK? The BBC attitude was that it has, because the amount of money spent on the NHS – in England alone – has increased.

But Mr Smith wasn’t talking about England alone. Look at the BBC article (which has been revised since Vox Political complained) and you’ll see he refers to “the Britain of my youth”. The final paragraph (as it is now) does not separate England from the rest of the UK.

You may think that’s nit-picking. Try this instead: A “money-terms” increase in NHS spending is not what the Coalition government promised. The Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised a “real-terms” increase and that is what Jeremy Hunt said had happened in the comment from 2012. But spending on the NHS has fallen in real terms.

The BBC’s complaints director, Richard Hutt, in a letter of October 31, admitted as much: “My research suggests that spending on the NHS has increased marginally in terms of the amount of money spent… but as you are aware, if GDP deflators are applied a slight decrease is shown.”

But, following on from a previous BBC response in which we were told, “your blog talks about real-terms spending. Our original article did not, and had we wished to refer to real-terms spending, we would have said so,” he continued: “Nothing in the article indicated that the intention was to refer to “real-terms” spending and so I have difficulty in agreeing that this is how it would have been understood.”

Then what was the point of mentioning spending at all?

The promise was to increase “real-terms” spending, and “real-terms” spending has in fact decreased. Any reference to spending other than in “real-terms” is therefore irrelevant to the debate and can only confuse the issue in the minds of the public.

In the face of the facts, Mr Hutt – it seems – isn’t having this. Doesn’t that suggest that he has been told to whitewash the BBC – deny any wrong-doing, no matter what?

Let’s move on.

Does the Coalition support the founding value of the NHS that nobody, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care? The easy answer to this is no, it doesn’t.

It was the work of a moment on a search engine to find a story demonstrating the opposite. It was this Daily Mail article, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.

In response, the BBC changed the wording of the last paragraph slightly, claiming that this changed the meaning. It didn’t.

The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit has done nothing but whitewash its story.

Never mind; there was still one more bullet in our gun. An email has just been sent to Mr Hutt, pointing out the words of Tom Pride that kicked off the whole affair:

“These are not facts. They are the opinions of a government minister being reported as facts by the BBC.

“That’s not news. It’s propaganda.

“Mind you, I don’t know why the reporter who wrote the article is so keen to remain anonymous.

“I mean, we all know that the reporting of unattributed propaganda from government ministers is a sackable offence for professional journalists in reputable news organisations.”

It’s best not to expect a reasonable response.

It’s clear we aren’t dealing with a reputable news organisation at all.

6 thoughts on “BBC whitewashes ‘government propaganda’ NHS story

  1. aturtle05

    Sir, are you suggesting that a Minister of the Crown is spouting untruths? Surely, there is no way that a Conservative MP could ever do anything but!

    So far, if I have this right we have the following (forgive me if I miss any):

    David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury
    Iain Duncan Smith, Minister of State for the Department of Works and Pensions.
    George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
    Lord David Freud, Minister for Employment
    Esther McVey, Minister for Employment
    Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled
    and now
    Jeremy Hunt, Minister for Health

    Have all misled the British Public by use of untruths, half-truths or blatantly bogus statistics.

  2. Ian Duncan

    I must have complained to the BBC half a dozen times about their news content in the past year and a half or so and not once have they even come close to admitting any wrong. Maybe the problem is we’re complaining to the wrong people? The BBC is notoriously arrogant towards complaints, probably because they investigate themselves and we all now how well that works for the press and police…

    Maybe it’s time to go to Ofcom instead? It also might be worth starting a petition on 38 Degrees or somesuch to get the BBC changed over to subscription only. There’s no justification for making people pay a licence fee any more, if ever there was justification, not with the technology available now. Certainly not when it amounts to paying to be lied to.

    PS. Just rermembered, it seems Ofcom might already have the knives out for Russia Today already so maybe complaining to them isn’t such a good idea. RT pisses on any other British news channel, especially Max Keiser, who the BBC tried to silence on Israel…

  3. wildswimmerpete

    “BBC is notoriously arrogant towards complaints,”
    The BBC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. A skilfully worded FOI request will have them wriggling on the hook. Don’t be fobbed off – it costs the BBC money to deal with FOIs. Follow up with additional FOIs until you get what you want, or they give up.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You have to be careful with that tactic, for fear of running foul of ‘Vexatiousness’!

  4. el muerte! (@El_MUERkO)

    We haven’t been dealing with a reputable news organisation since Greg Dyke was forced to resign by the Blair government during the David Kelly scandal & the BBC as a news organisation was neutered. Russia Today and Al Jazeera have their own propaganda to peddle but people have long expected more of the BBC. Sadly it’s no longer the case.

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