Nick Robinson can’t help the BBC and his ideas about trust aren’t valid – for a simple reason

The BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson referred to a ‘guerrilla war’ waged by alternative news sites [Image: Paul Hampartsoumian/Rex].


Social media criticism of Nick Robinson and the BBC are based on concerns that the corporation is biased in favour of the Conservative Party.

Mr Robinson, with his close ties to the Conservatives, is in no position to defend Auntie from such accusations. Nor is the BBC itself likely to be believed while it sends former board members to become Tory peers, and former reporters to become Tory PR bosses (to name just two recent events).

Still, his suggestions deserve to be considered.

Firstly, could the BBC do more to engage with people who get their updates from social media sites on Twitter? Sure. But BBC tweets are unlikely to gain credibility until the more serious problem – of trust – is addressed.

This brings us to Mr Robinson’s second suggestion – that the BBC should demonstrate its impartiality by, in effect, showing its workings when making decisions about what to report and how to do so.

But it is easy to spin a line to defend any decision – especially when there is no higher authority to rule otherwise. That’s how the BBC has got away with previous transgressions.

And there is no suggestion from Mr Robinson about when the BBC should admit that it was wrong, or that it did show bias. This is a real problem.

You see, social media organisations such as This Site (and thanks for not bothering to mention me, Mr Robinson! Charmed, I’m sure) have easy access to information that can support or undermine any news story you care to mention. In many cases this puts the BBC on extremely dodgy ground.

Look at my own clash with the BBC over whether the Conservatives have increased NHS funding in real terms or not (the BBC claimed they had; the facts showed otherwise). The BBC was wrong but spokespeople lied through their teeth.

At the time of writing, the BBC has come under heavy criticism for failing to cover the alleged (if you like) police brutality at the Catalan independence referendum in a balanced manner. It will be interesting to see how the Corporation justifies its decisions, if questioned in the matter.

It’s interesting that the conversation has swung towards the BBC, though. Initially, the plan was to insult social media sites by claiming they are published by amateurs. After this was proved untrue (I’m a fully-qualified reporter and former newspaper editor, for example) the attack shifted to claims that social media stories – and claims about mainstream media stories – were unsubstantiated. Those have proved baseless as well.

Now the debate has shifted to the behaviour of the mainstream. Will the mogul-led media prove as easy to defend?

Robinson suggested that the BBC should do more to engage with people disillusioned with the news and those who get their updates from social media while “looking at their phone on the loo”.

He also called for the BBC to promote and celebrate its impartiality by being more transparent about how it reaches editorial decisions. This could include, Robinson suggested, publishing the BBC’s “producers’ guidelines” in real time to demonstrate why a report has been worded a certain way, or disclosing the discussions and decisions at editorial meetings. The consequence of this would be that when the BBC received a complaint it could point to its workings.

Source: Nick Robinson’s ideas about how the BBC can regain trust are valid | Graham Ruddick | Media | The Guardian

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6 thoughts on “Nick Robinson can’t help the BBC and his ideas about trust aren’t valid – for a simple reason

  1. Barry Davies

    Completely lost faith in the BBC when they interviewed a number of us when we were fighting to save Stafford hospital, or as the BBC have been calling it for years scandal hit mid staffs, not one of us was given any air time for anything that went against the BBC’s story of death and destruction, although we were actually stating facts not the fiction that the BBC were reporting, and still they continue to peddle the baseless myths as if they were the truth, to support the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

  2. Mike Brogan

    I’ve taken Robinsons reports with a pinch of salt for years,as I was aware of his Toryism. The BBC on the other hand, I thought was pretty impartial,but these last few months have blown that view apart,their Tory bias has been astounding,from their stacking of the QT Audience and Panel with rt wingers,to their hostile questioning of Labour Politicians in particular,,while the Tories were given a much easier ride. I fear the BBC as a news organisation is becoming increasingly pathetic.

  3. rotzeichen

    The BBC has actively shut down debate over the privatisation of the NHS, I had arranged to be part of a discussion group under the banner of 38 degrees Gloucestershire, (non political organisation) on local radio talking about a workshop we were holding to inform people about how the Tories were privatising the NHS.

    As we turned up at the door on a cold damp night at eight Oclock in the evening, we were immediately turned away by the presenter as he said that his bosses would not sanction the programme. Suffice it to say that if we were local gardeners talking to our vegetables claiming it encouraged growth, there would be absolutely no problem getting on the programme.

  4. Zippi

    Qualified? Most of what I hear and read from the B.B.C. is from people who, clearly, need to go back to school. Much of what I hear and read makes no sense, whatsoever and I have written multiple e.mails, over the years, to address this fact, with much of the rest being so ambiguous as to be open to interpretation, rather than a presentation of the facts as they are known; this is, at best, poor craftsmanship and at worst, a deliberate, cynical effort to mislead the public.
    Aye, the Corporation should admit when it is wrong and swiftly; how can it be a trustworthy news source, otherwise? It needs to prove its impartiality every day, with every story. A gross complacency appears to have taken root and that it shameful. Te B.B.C. is a public service broadcaster and is there to serve the public. Mr. Robinson would do well to remember that.

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