Tag Archives: agenda

Wrong again, Graun! People ARE avoiding the news – except major developments. And for a good reason…

Propaganda: It seems people are avoiding the mainstream news outlets because they are seen as purveyors of fake – or at least severely slanted – news.

Brexit isn’t the reason people are avoiding the news – but The Guardian only touches on the real reason, perhaps because it is too close to home.

People are turning away from mainstream news outlets because they are perceived to be pushing a particular agenda:

Britons also say they are losing trust in the news, with the authors attributing this to increased political polarisation: “Even the most trusted brands like the BBC are seen by many as pushing or suppressing agendas – especially over polarising issues like Brexit and climate change.”

Doesn’t that seem more plausible than Brexit fatigue, when

according to one BBC insider, the BBC News website attracted 28 million unique visitors in January on the day of parliament’s first meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit day, while 25 million checked the website the following day when it was covering the no-confidence vote in the prime minister?

Brexit certainly hasn’t harmed This Site’s audience. Vox Political‘s highest-ever visitor total was recorded on March 23 this year, when I reported on the ‘Revoke Brexit’ e-petition that became the most-signed petition on the government’s website: 93,008 views.

It’s certainly possible that some Britons are giving up on the news in order to avoid the blanket coverage of Brexit that has made it headline news practically every day since before the EU referendum.

But when

alleged Brexit fatigue among the British public has also been used by some news programmes to justify declining audiences,

it seems far more likely that the news media are trying to find an excuse that does not mention the possibility that they are pushing their own agenda.

Doesn’t it? Or is that paranoid conspiracy-theorising?

Source: Third of Britons say they avoid news out of Brexit frustration | Media | The Guardian

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Right-wing blogger attacks political neutrality of Citizens Advice

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That’s right – the Citizens Advice Bureau has come under attack from the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog, which is trying to create a story about a haven of “Labour apparatchiks”, operating a politicised agenda behind a mask of neutrality. The email extract above is being presented as justification.

What utter codswallop!

The claim is that the charity, which helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice, pushes a left-wing or Labour-supporting agenda because it is “stuffed full” of Labour members like “former Miliband aide and Labour candidate Polly Billington”.

In fact, a quick glance through the very email being waved around as evidence is enough to prove the opposite. It leaves no doubt that Ms Billington is leaving her role in Citizens Advice precisely because she knows that taking up her political activities would create a conflict of interest if she were to remain. It’s there in black and white.

The email states: “Polly and I have been thinking carefully about how to make sure this is a smooth transition, so that the campaigns and communications teams are fully supported… and both THE REALITY and perception of our political neutrality are maintained” [boldings and CAPS mine].

That’s right – the intention is to maintain THE REALITY of the charity’s political neutrality.

How did Guido report it? She “has been moved from the front line … so that the ‘perception of our political neutrality’ is ‘maintained’. This is an extremely clumsy misinterpretation because, as noted above, the email refers very clearly to THE REALITY of the charity’s political neutrality.

Indeed, the CAB Code of Conduct prohibits any politicisation of the kind suggested by Guido: “Trustees and committee members must comply with… the avoidance of activities which might compromise Citizens Advice’s political neutrality.”

So where Guido‘s article continues: “Meanwhile, the charity has just hired the Resolution Foundation’s James Plunkett as its new head of campaigns. That would be the same James Plunkett who used to work for Gordon Brown and who has written a string of articles for the Guardian laying into the Tories and “the cuts”. Wonder how they will maintain his ‘perception of political neutrality’,” again it is spouting nonsense. He will be tied into political neutrality by the same code of conduct that ties everybody else in positions of authority, including members of CAB trustee boards across the United Kingdom who may be supporters of the Conservative, Labour, Green or any other party in their personal life, including this writer.

Since the article is clearly trying to suggest the CAB’s political neutrality is only a front, it seems clear that CAB has every right to sue Guido into oblivion – or at least seek compensation for the intended damage to the charity’s reputation.

This seems like another attempt to claim left-wing political bias that isn’t there, in order to install exactly the same kind of sympathy towards the right-wing parties instead – for an example of this strategy, look at the BBC.

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Waiting for the ‘snail media’ to catch up

'Snail' media: The BBC News website was nearly two months behind the political blogs in its reporting of a major story.

‘Snail’ media: The BBC News website was nearly two months behind the political blogs in its reporting of a major story.

“On Tuesday, this was a serious Conservative Party policy proposal, being reported in national newspapers. Now, it’s ‘never’ going to happen,” trumpeted web campaigners 38 Degrees in an email last night.

They were, of course, referring to the Tory idea that it would be all right to restrict consultations with an NHS doctor to three per year per person – presumably the Rupert who dreamed it up thought everybody who mattered would have private health insurance instead, and this seems to be borne out by the material in the rest of the policy document.

I’m perfectly happy with this result. In fact, I think it is blogs like Vox Political that helped make it happen because – as you’ll know, o loyal reader – Vox reported on this particular scandal on Sunday, two days before.

I’ll admit, the material in the article was sourced from the newspapers, but what’s interesting is that it took a further two days for the mass – or as I intend to call it from now on, the ‘snail’ – media to cotton on that the whole idea is utterly ludicrous and the public won’t fall for it.

During that time, the Vox article went viral, and Vox readers have never really been known for keeping their opinions to themselves.

A ‘snowball’ effect then ensued, leading to reports in the papers of the public reaction and the 38 Degrees petition, which resulted in Jeremy Hunt’s grumpy tweet: “In case being misled by ‘neutral’ 38Degrees e-petition, it IS NOT and WAS NEVER going to be Conservative policy to limit GP appointments.”

He’s only upset because we spoiled his fun, I expect.

Vox Political was not the only blog covering this story, as far as I’m aware, and I certainly don’t want to suggest that it was any more instrumental in this little victory than anyone else. What I’m saying is it demonstrates that bloggers are starting to drive the political agenda.

The problem is the length of time it takes the mass – sorry, ‘snail’ – media to catch up.

Consider this story on the BBC News website (powered by Atos, in case anybody forgets) yesterday:

Under the headline ‘Incapacity benefit test claims ‘conflated figures’ – watchdog’, it states: “Suggestions that 878,300 benefit claimants dropped their claims rather than take a medical test have been challenged by the statistics watchdog.

“Tory chairman Grant Shapps was quoted saying that nearly a million people had “taken themselves off” incapacity benefit instead of sitting the test.”

Again, it’s great that this nonsense has been challenged, and the challenge has been reported. What’s not so great is the timescale.

Because the Skwawkbox blog, run by Steve Walker, challenged this nonsense almost two months ago.

The comment in the BBC story – by Andrew Dilnot, the now famous head of the UK Statistics Authority – was that “research by the Department for Work and Pensions suggested that one important reason for those cases being closed was because the person ‘recovered and either returned to work or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation’ instead.”

That is uncannily close to Steve Walker’s comment that “this represents nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill” – published on April 2!

I’ll accept some people may dispute the blogs’ influence on the outcome of the ‘NHS consultation’ issue, but on this one it seems unlikely there can be any doubt. Mr Dilnot’s letter followed an inquiry from Sheila Gilmore MP, who follows Vox Political and is certainly likely to have read my report on this matter. It seems likely that she also follows Skwawkbox. The amount of time between those articles’ appearance and the piece on the BBC website is the time it took for her to receive a response to her inquiry on the matter from Mr Dilnot.

Isn’t it a shame that the BBC didn’t do any fact-checking for itself?

So there you have it: If you want proper political news – and proper analysis of events – forget the ‘snail’ media and go to the blogs. We’re faster and more accurate, and what’s more, we make things change.

For the better (in case Iain ‘We’re changing their lives’ Smith was wondering).