Let’s hope Corbyn gets more respect than the rest of us over Panorama’s hatchet job

Jeremy Corbyn’s team has sent a complaint to the BBC over its Panorama feature on the Labour leadership front-runner, The Independent has learnt.

A source in Mr Corbyn’s campaign accused the BBC of conducting “a complete hatchet job” on Mr Corbyn.

Panorama producers apparently told them they were filming for a documentary about the Labour leadership campaign as a whole, including all four candidates, but instead the programme turned out to be all about the one candidate, as the title of the show suggests, and only included a few brief clips of his three rivals.

[Corbyn campaigners] have also sent a copy of Mr Corbyn’s diary to prove he did not attend a conference in Cairo that advocated attacks on British and American troops, as was stated by the programme’s presenter, John Ware. The diary proves he attended events in his Islington constituency, his campaign claims.

The programme… attracted hundreds of complaints from viewers who claimed it was biased against Mr Corbyn and who accused the BBC of trying to persuade undecided voters not to vote for him, less than three days before the deadline for voting closed.

The dispute threatens to damage what is promising to be a good relationship between Mr Corbyn and the BBC, which faces the prospect of deep-rooted reforms by the Conservative government and a battle to maintain its ability to charge a £145 a-year licence fee, its main source of revenue.

Mr Corbyn has pledged to “put Labour at the forefront of the campaign to defend the BBC” if he wins the Labour leadership on Saturday.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn’s team send complaint to BBC over its ‘hatchet job’ Panorama programme – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

That last point is very interesting – but then, it seems the BBC is determined to make as many enemies as possible in what could be considered the corporate equivalent of self-harming. Even though the Independent article was not graced with a response, the BBC’s complaints team has replied to viewers’ criticisms. According to one Vox Political commenter, the wording is as follows:

“We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this story… In the midst of a hard-fought contest for the Labour leadership, Panorama set out to profile Jeremy Corbyn whose campaign has been the surprise package of the election so far.”

So Mr Corbyn’s supporters were right that the BBC had no intention of making a documentary about all four candidates, it seems.

“Mr Corbyn was the only one of the four leadership candidates who was interviewed at length for the programme. When criticisms were raised of his policies or his judgement he was given time to respond. The programme also carried extracts from speeches he has made and demonstrated quite clearly the extent of his support, and the enthusiasm of his many supporters. It is hard to think that any viewer could have come away from this programme without understanding the momentum and the passion that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership has generated.

“Naturally, the programme featured prominent Labour politicians who oppose Mr Corbyn’s candidacy: that seems a fair reflection of the way the leadership campaign has divided opinion within the party. And, when we looked for voices to speak in support of Mr Corbyn, we chose quite deliberately to interview people who are not mainstream politicians – people like the comedian Grainne Maguire – because, again, that seems a fair reflection of a campaign in which Jeremy Corbyn has drawn strength and support from outside the Labour ‘establishment’.

“By their nature, election campaigns for the leadership of political parties are moments of heightened sensitivity, so we knew that Panorama’s judgements about balance and fairness in making this film would be sharply scrutinised. We sought to be fair in the way we allocated time within the programme to reflect opinions supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and opposed to him; in allowing him to answer as fully as possible any criticisms that were raised; and in representing the extraordinary campaign that has developed around him.

“There is strong opposition within the Labour Party to the idea of Jeremy Corbyn as its potential leader. We were bound to represent that within our programme, alongside his strong support. In the round, we hope we got the balance right.”

So, no mention of particular criticisms – just generalisations.

The BBC’s attitude is perplexing. Another commenter described it as all but saying, “Back off, pleb; we’re right and there’s nothing you can do about it,” which – given the fact that the BBC seems to be self-regulating with regard to complaints – seems to be true (the part about there being nothing to be done about it, not that part about being right).

But reports like this – and the recent More or Less fiasco over the incapacity death statistics – show the Corporation pandering to the Conservative Party, an organisation which the Independent report acknowledges is attacking the BBC.

If the Corporation was a Leftist haven, as its right-wing critics suggest, then it would be fighting tooth and nail to maintain its autonomy. It seems far more likely that the infiltration is from the Right, with the intention of ensuring as little resistance as possible.

If Mr Corbyn does become Labour leader tomorrow, he’ll need not only to defend the BBC, but also to purge it.

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17 thoughts on “Let’s hope Corbyn gets more respect than the rest of us over Panorama’s hatchet job

  1. creatorsnotconsumers

    I cannot remember any specifics now, but do well remember thinking the presenter , John Ware, used clever mouthed language to bias viewers against Jeremy Corbyn. I note in its generalities the BBC have not addressed that.

  2. john ingamells (@geovanni218)

    I can confirm my response from the BBC over the complaint I sent suggested it was a panorama designed to show the phenomenon of interest and involvement by young people and politically dormant parties. Something I never accepted at all. As regards the very selective editing and lack of interest in the other 3 candidates in a campaign at a critical stage, the BBC response was fake and feeble. The entire response from the BBC showed that they had set out to do the hatchet job on Corbyn and they insulted my intelligence in the feeble defence. I have noticed that their complaints are gradually coming close to the standard of response or apology from the right wing press. They seem indifferent to the way we as viewers and complainants will respond. I have written to their news media watch programme as well but feel it may be a waste of time. As you say it seems the BBC credibility and news output quality is lacking balance set against the genuine threats it is getting from the Tories prompted by Murdoch and his fellow newspaper owners and media outlets.

  3. Neilth

    Given that many of those in senior positions in the BBC hierarchy are ex public school/ Oxbridge is it any wonder that they seem to represent the establishment?
    In fact what is surprising is that thy seem able to offend all sides equally.

    My particular bugbear with regard to the Beeb is the amount of airtime they give to a party with only one elected MP as compared the time they give to more successful parties.

    I registered my dismay at the factual inaccuracies of the More or Less programme. I didn’t see the Panorama which went out after I had sent my vote so I won’t comment on that.

    I generally support the BBC as the least worst of all the options and believe it should retain its financial independence and that the Government should keep its hands off.

    I am less worried about bias as I believe that overall the balance is about right though there are a few pieces where it should be made clearer that what is being expressed is opinion rather than fact.

  4. Jeffery Davies

    About right purge the bbc of its toryism its we the peasants who pay the licensing fee but to get a even keel there needs to be a mix at the top but bbc bias yes to labour niave jc was if he thought otherwise jeff3

  5. John.

    The BBC has always toed the establishment line, I find it amusing when people are hurt by the broadcasters lack of impartiality and absolutely hilarious when right wing knuckle draggers accuse it of being leftist.

  6. Paul C. Dickie

    “Television is not the friendliest medium in which to unravel complex subjects. It suffers from what the BBC’s former director-general John Birt once called the “bias against understanding”. What Birt meant was that television tends to cleave to polarity and in a conflict as complex and visceral as this one, finds it hard to grapple with the nuances that can be vital to a proper understanding.”

    That was written by John Ware, for the Jewish Chronicle.

    Yes, that’s the same Jewish Chronicle that took to publishing twaddle for the past month.

    In no particular order, there are –

    If one did not know that the Jewish Chronicler was a bastion of free speech and probity, one might even form the mistaken view that they imagined that any leader of the Labour Party had to be blessed or anointed by them or, at the very least, by the Chief Rabbi.

  7. shaun

    Yes, I think he will need to purge the Beeb in order to remove its right-wing bias. Was not Lord Patton once some sort of director at the BBC? However, I suspect that this will attract much more media attention than the placing of right-wing stooges in the first place. Present incumbents, at the BBC (directors and above) are probably already factoring in the huge ‘bonus’ payments they would receive from its privatization or as part of a take-over package paid out by Sky News.

  8. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I have little faith that you will receive any sort of an apology from either the BBC or this government. However, I hope that once we have a decent Labour party back in government we can sort out the BBC and make it what it should be, an “unbiased” broadcasting service for the whole nation.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Maybe, but nobody will be persuaded by bald statements like that. How would you persuade them of that fact?

  9. Joan Edington

    I’ve been on holiday while all this was going on so I never actually saw these programs. Reading your article, though, I have a touch of déja vu harping back to my anger during our referendum last year.

Comments are closed.