FACT-CHECK ON ONE OF THE EXPRESS’ MOST CONTENTIOUS RECENT ARTICLES

express cover

One of the frustrating things about newspaper journalism is that writers don’t have to back up what they print with any proof. This leaves many of the loud-mouthed columnists in the biggest selling dailies free to pass their opinions off as facts which often go unchallenged.

One recent example of this is an article published in the Daily Express by a writer called Leo McKinstry. Now out of all the daily UK papers, the Express is the one probably least acquainted with the concept of facts (in fact, doing a fact-check on an Express article feels a bit like searching for head lice on a bald head). But this particular article feels worthy of the effort because, whereas most loud-mouthed columnist articles tend to be a spew of ire without too much in the way of specific statements, Mr McKinstry made a number of comments in his article ‘All British people should be equal before the law’ that can be quite easily checked for accuracy.

So here is a fact-check on eight stand-out comments from that article.

  1. There is evidence that the courts are biased in favour of ethnic minorities

This was a comment made amid a general piece in which it was asserted that ‘the state has become obsessed with pandering to minorities’. ‘Too many institutions indulge in special treatment of groups that have been awarded victim status’ McKinstry went on, arguing that this has led to ‘rank injustice against the British public’.

The inspiration for these comments was the recent inquiry headed by Labour MP David Lammy into racial prejudice in the criminal justice system. McKinstry believes that not only are the findings of this report wrong but that the whole reason the inquiry was held in the first place was because the state is ‘desperate to parade its hyper sensitivity towards ethnic minorities and migrant groups’. He disputes Lammy’s findings of judicial racism and asserts that ‘evidence points in the opposite direction’.

McKinstry cites one study of crown court verdicts that found that ethnic minority men were 9% more likely to be acquitted than white men in similar cases. But what does the bigger picture show?

The most recent statistics on race and the criminal justice system published on the government website are from 2014 and it’s a pretty mixed bag in terms of sentencing. While figures show that white offenders had higher conviction rates in terms of percentages than black or Asian offenders overall, black and Asian offenders were more likely to receive immediate custodial sentences than white offenders. This was consistent across males, females and juveniles. Additionally, the average length of custodial sentences for black and Asian offenders was greater than for white offenders. This tallies with evidence presented in the Lammy report.

So hardly a strong argument that the courts are inherently biased towards minority groups. The 2014 report also found that ethnic minorities were more likely to be stopped and searched or arrested by police and more likely to be victims of crime.

Separate judiciary statistics from 2017 show that ethnic minorities are under-represented among the judiciary, with 7% of court judges and 10% of tribunal judges identifying as ethnic minority (compared to around 14% of the UK as a whole). So if the criminal justice system is, as McKinstry seems to believe, over-run with political correctness, it doesn’t appear to have translated very strongly into career opportunities for minority groups.

Add to this the recent research that shows that just 3% of the 1,000 most powerful people in Britain are non-white and the whole argument that society has shifted in favour of minorities looks a little threadbare. It is based on weak anecdotal evidence, misinformation and a misinterpreting of race relations legislation that has sought to reduce historical imbalances between ethnic groups. Despite any real or imagined instances of ‘political correctness’, no institution in this country is biased in favour of ethnic minorities – including the criminal justice system – and there exists no real evidence to back it up.

  1. There is a witch-hunt against British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland

This has been a popular narrative in the right-wing tabloids recently, inspired by ongoing investigations into the behaviour of British soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

Much of this has concerned the forthcoming trial of army veteran Dennis Hutchings over the shooting of a man in 1974. McKinstry refers to this as ‘part of an official witch-hunt against hundreds of ex-Army personnel who served in Ulster. Yet ex-IRA thugs have not only been allowed to walk free but have even been welcomed into Northern Ireland’s government.’

Firstly, let’s deal with the Hutchings trial. Far from being the victim of a witch-hunt, he is standing trial for shooting an innocent unarmed man in the back as he fled Army patrol. Which is the way the law works. If you are accusing of shooting an innocent person dead, you stand trial – whether it happened last week, last year or forty years ago doesn’t matter. McKinstry seems to think that because Hutchings was wearing a British Army uniform and that he is now a 76-year-old man, that the law shouldn’t apply to him.

It’s true that the actions of hundreds of ex-soldiers are being investigated by Northern Ireland’s Legacy Investigation Branch. But these investigations concern 238 fatal incidents in which 302 people died. As the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) states: ‘In the early 70s, an illegal agreement existed between senior army and police officers which meant that soldiers involved in fatal incidents were rarely interviewed by police officers’.

So 302 unarmed people were killed and nobody was ever prosecuted. All that’s happening is that these crimes are finally being investigated. The PFC rightly puts it that ‘where (soldiers) didn’t uphold the law they should be subject to investigation and prosecution as with anyone else’.

To date, only four British soldiers have actually been convicted of shooting civilians in Northern Ireland and all were released after five years through ‘Royal Prerogative of Mercy’ despite being given life sentences. All were allowed to rejoin the army.

Contrast this with thousands of republican and loyalist prisoners who served years in jail. Yes, many were pardoned as part of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) but most had served lengthy sentences. We are not talking about people who were never punished for their crimes. There is a huge difference between early release of prisoners as part of a mutual agreement – remember, prisoners from both sides were released, it wasn’t a one-sided thing – and crimes going completely unpunished. If ex-members of paramilitaries – loyalist or republican – were found guilty today of an unpunished offence committed before the GFA, they would be tried, as they should be.

So whether you see this as a witch-hunt or not rather depends on whether or not you feel that people suspected of murdering innocent people should stand trial in a court of law.

  1. The government has failed to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM)

McKinstry moves onto what he sees as the ‘disgraceful failure‘ by the government to tackle FGM which he rightly describes as a ‘barbaric practice‘. Looking at the available evidence, he appears to be on more reliable ground with this assertion.

FGM has been illegal in the UK for over 30 years now but, despite a £2.8 million six-year programme called the Tackling FGM Initiative involving a range of charities and community groups that generated an extensive resource pack, a report by the House of Commons Select Committee in September 2016 revealed that there has not been one single successful prosecution for FGM. The report stated that this is a ‘national scandal that is continuing to result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls‘. A study in 2011 estimated that there are approximately 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales subjected to FGM.

  1. This country has casually accepted sharia law

A popular belief of the likes of Britain First and the English Defence League, and stated with confidence by McKinstry in his article, but another that doesn’t stand up to close examination. A recent Full Fact analysis into the existence of sharia courts in the UK found that, although there are a number of sharia councils (estimated to be between 30 and 80 in total) that have been set up to make decisions on religious matters, they aren’t courts of law and none have the power to over-rule regular courts.

The sharia councils exist to provide services such as family mediation and issue divorce certificates. Although some people are uncomfortable about their existence and there are concerns that women may be disadvantaged by mediation outcomes, these councils aren’t that much different from the Jewish rabbinical courts (which also have no power to over-rule regular courts) that have existed in the UK for over 200 years.

In 2016, the government launched an independent review into the application of sharia law in England and Wales.

  1. The DWP pays out welfare benefits to multiple wives in polygamous marriages

McKinstry acknowledges that polygamous marriages are against the law in the UK. The only instances of polygamous marriage that this country recognises are where they have taken place in a country that permits them and where both parties were residents of that country at the time of marriage. Anecdotal evidence exists of some polygamous marriages taking place in the UK through informal ceremonies that are not recognised under UK law.

Although McKinstry’s statement has some truth to it, it doesn’t tell the whole story. A 2017 government briefing paper on polygamy states that: ‘At present, some benefits can be paid, in certain cases, in respect of more than one spouse‘. These rules have been in place in the UK since 1987.

At present, wives in polygamous marriages can claim for income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance. Plus they can claim for child benefit/tax credits. Housing benefit and council tax benefit cannot be claimed for multiple households, so a husband cannot have multiple wives and claim separate housing and council tax benefit. In the event of the husband’s death, wives in polygamous marriages are not entitled to bereavement benefit and do not qualify for state pension on the basis of the husband’s contributions.

Making a welfare claim as a spouse in a polygamous marriage is actually a disincentive as the amount they receive as a polygamous wife is only 57% of what they would receive as an individual claimant in their own right. The government has decided that polygamous marriages will not be recognised under Universal Credit arrangements (currently being phased in and expected to be fully introduced by 2022). This means that in some cases polygamous households may receive more in welfare benefits than under current arrangements, as additional wives may claim as individual claimants in their own right.

  1. Islamic jihadism has flourished in Britain to a greater extent than in any other European country

This comment is most likely based on the statement a few weeks back from Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terror coordinator, who warned that the UK is home to between 20,000 and 25,000 Islamic extremists which is the highest known figure in Europe.

However, while this is obviously a big concern, the estimated number includes a vast range of individuals from those the security services feel could pose a genuine threat to fringe individuals who have featured in investigations, people who have had past links to extremism and people with no history of violence who have radical views.

The statement that jihadism has flourished in Britain to a greater extent than elsewhere can’t really be made on the basis of this figure for a few reasons. It’s an estimated rough figure, there haven’t been similar assessments made in other European countries, and the existence of individuals with extreme beliefs is not the same as jihadism flourishing. In fact, far more attacks have been prevented than carried out in this country. To say that jihadism is flourishing almost sounds as if you’re giving the terrorists a pat on the back and making them sound more successful in their goals than they have been.

  1. There is open bias and exclusion against the indigenous population in some services and sectors

According to McKinstry, ‘the fixation with diversity is now carried to a grotesque conclusion of open bias and exclusion against the indigenous population‘. He claims that ‘in public housing, some providers trumpet their racial favouritism’ whereas elsewhere ‘a host of public sector training schemes are reserved for ethnic minority candidates‘.

The evidence he offers to back this up is paltry. The one housing provider he names is a voluntary sector organisation, the Camden-based Odu-Dua Housing Association which provides affordable housing for black and ethnic minority people in North London. Because that’s what the voluntary sector does – provides specialist support for various sections of the community in need. Odu-Dua runs 184 properties and was set up in the 1980s to find housing predominantly for young black homeless men. It doesn’t exclusively provide housing for BME groups but they are the main target group.

There are numerous housing associations that exist to cater for specific groups, such as Hanover which provides homes for the elderly, Windsor Walk which houses people with long-term mental health problems, Probus Housing which provides safe and secure accommodation for single working women, and the Mary Seacole Housing Association that provides homes for young single homeless people.

The problems with accessing adequate housing among minority groups has been documented in studies such as a 2004 report by Shelter which detailed how BME households were over four times more likely to experience homelessness than white households, with the causes of this including limited housing opportunities, racial harassment and lack of appropriate housing services.

Similarly flimsy is the claim that the public sector is now a hotbed of positive discrimination in terms of employment opportunities. McKinstry cites the BBC which offered training schemes targeting BME groups under its 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. But beyond this, there is no evidence of such schemes anywhere in the public sector.

  1. Immigration to the UK is running at almost 600,000 arrivals a year

This is a misleading comment. McKinstry is talking about the gross figure, which according to the latest statistics is around 588,000. But the net figure, accounting for those leaving as well as arriving, was 339,000. There is little point in using the gross figure in most discussions on migration as it doesn’t tell you much about national migration patterns on its own. It’s like pointing out how much a specific social group cost in terms of public expenditure without also mentioning what that group pays back into the pot in taxes.

This is important here as McKinstry links the immigration figure to ‘collapse of justice‘, as if Britain is being invaded year upon year by waves of criminals. Yet there has been no significant increase in crime in the UK according to the most recent statistics, and recent research has found there to be no causal link between immigration and crime.

So the results of this fact-check on eight comments would suggest that only one of them (the government failing to tackle FGM) fully stands up to scrutiny. The rest are a mixture of the Express‘ textbook exaggeration, distortion and misinformation. A 12.5% accuracy rate – not good at all but, sad to say, not that surprising.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

Advertisements

IPSO UPHOLDS COMPLAINT BY MAX HILL QC AGAINST MAIL ON SUNDAY

mail on sunday logo

*This report is a reproduction of the original printed in the Mail on Sunday on 24th September 2017. Original copy available here

Following publication of an article of headlined “The terror law chief and the ‘cover-up’ that could explode UK’s biggest bomb trial”, published on 5th March, Max Hill complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required The Mail on Sunday to publish this adjudication.

The complainant had been a barrister for the prosecution in the trial of the ’21/7’ attempted London bombers. The article under complaint explained that the evidence of an expert witness, who had conducted forensic tests on the defendants’ devices, had been “critical to the prosecution’s case”. A sub headline of the article claimed that the complainant “knew” that this expert had been “discredited”. It went onto explain that “serious issues” had been raised about the evidence, which documents showed the complainant had known about at the time of the trial.

The article also claimed that these issues, which had been raised before the Court of Appeal by one of the defendants, had previously been unreported because the court had imposed a “gagging order”. It claimed that “we can report them now as the gagging order has been lifted”.

The complainant said that there was no evidence to support the inaccurate claim that he knew the witness was “discredited” at the time of the trial. He said that the Court of Appeal, in considering this issue, had clearly decided that there was no evidence to support the claim that the prosecution had conducted the trial notwithstanding ongoing criticism of the expert. The complainant also denied that the Court of Appeal judgment had been subject to any “gagging order”, preventing publication, and said it was wrong to suggest that an embargo had prevented publication.

The newspaper said that the complainant was aware of serious concerns about the expert’s evidence, and denied that it was misleading to claim that the complainant knew that the expert had been discredited. The newspaper said that the Court of Appeal had issued an order on 10 February 2015 banning the reporting of Asiedu’s appeal while it was ongoing. This “gagging order” was not lifted until the judgment was issued on 30 April 2015. It said that this had been 8 days before a General Election, which is why nothing had been reported on the matter until the article under complaint, when the complainant’s appointment as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation gave the issue a new topicality.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee considered that it was not misleading for the newspaper to report that the complainant knew that “serious issues” had been raised about the expert’s evidence. However, in the subheadline of the print article, and the headline of the online version of the article, the newspaper claimed that the complainant “knew” that the expert had been “discredited”. This was a serious allegation in light of the other claims in the article that the complainant had failed to make the disclosures to the defendants’ legal team which would have been required in such circumstances. To claim that he “knew” the expert had been “discredited”, went significantly further than reporting that he had been aware of concerns about the first report. The complainant’s knowledge of these concerns was not sufficient to justify the claim regarding the complainant’s understanding of the expert’s suitability to act and whether it was appropriate for the prosecution to rely on his evidence at the trial. These headlines were not supported by the text of the article, and represented a failure to take care not to publish misleading information, in breach of Clause 1 (i). The newspaper had not offered to correct these significantly misleading claims, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

The Committee also decided that the article misleadingly implied that the “gagging order” on the Court of Appeal hearing had only recently been lifted, allowing coverage of the allegations against the prosecution. The “gagging order” had in fact been lifted around a year and 10 months previously. The Committee took the view that this a significantly misleading statement in the context of an article which also reported that the complainant had been accused of a “cover-up”. This represented a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i), and a further misleading statement, which the newspaper had not offered to correct, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

 

 

THE SUN IS CALLING THE EU BONKERS AND UNFAIR OVER LAWS THAT AREN’T EVEN HAPPENING

golf-buggy-970884_960_720

The Sun‘s latest ‘Bonkers Brussels’ outrage is over laws that are not in place and are unlikely to ever come into force.

In an article published last week, the paper made claims that ‘new EU laws will come into force’ that ‘will mean all types of transport used on private land will require compulsory insurance’ including for ‘personal mobility scooters, golf buggies and even lawnmowers’.

The issue was also covered in the Daily Mail, without quite the same levels of hyperbole.

The fears over the new legislation follow a European Court of Justice Ruling in 2014 where a Slovenian farm worker was injured by a tractor on private farm land. The ECJ ruled that the vehicle should have had compulsory motor insurance to cover the claim.

The ruling has prompted concerns that the case has set a precedent and that the EU could change laws on motor insurance. At the moment, motor insurance is only required for vehicles using public roads. The European Commission is currently carrying out a consultation to review the issue.

But any changes to laws are unlikely to affect countries such as Britain, where such off-road accidents are covered by the likes of public liability insurance or employers liability insurance. The ruling is likely to be implemented in countries where it might be needed, such as in Slovenia where the only compulsory forms of insurance are motor insurance and professional liability insurance. It’s why this particular case went to the European courts in the first place – because there was no form of compulsory insurance in place in Slovenia to cover it.

The Sun writes that these ‘crazy new European laws’ will mean that ‘motorsport races could even have to be cancelled as premiums for drivers at these would be sky high’.

But they won’t, as the organisers of motor racing events unsurprisingly have accidents covered under their events insurance.

All the EU is doing at the moment is gathering feedback from member states to identify any gaps and determine whether rules need to be changed in areas where people aren’t adequately covered by other forms of insurance. It makes sense in the long run as it will prevent any future cases being dragged through the European courts.

So a typical example of The Sun twisting a fairly rational policy process that actually isn’t going to affect us at all and making it sound as if those health and safety mad Brussels bureaucrats are telling us what to do at every turn. Some things never change.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

HOW TABLOID LIES FUEL NAZI EXTREMISM IN THE UK

express front cover

Tabloid newspaper lies are being used by far-right extremist websites to increase levels of racism in the UK. The papers won’t acknowledge it but there exists a clear link between lies printed in papers such as The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express and overtly racist sites who reprint and share these false articles.

The latest blatant example of this comes courtesy of the Daily Express, a publication that eschews actual coverage of the news in favour of writing rubbish about the EU, immigration, extreme weather, conspiracy theories and supposed Alzheimer’s cures.

Last October, the Express published a fake news article titled TAXPAYER FUNDED ‘ANARCHIST’ PhD STUDENT ‘HELPED START FIRES AT CALAIS JUNGLE MIGRANT CAMP’. It claimed that activist and researcher James Ellison was involved in arson at the migrant camps in Calais on 27 October last year.

On Friday, nearly nine months after the original article was published, the Express published an apology to Mr Ellison admitting this story was untrue.

The paper acknowledged that he ‘had nothing at all to do with starting those fires’ and furthermore ‘had not been in Calais for several months before the fires’. Facts that made the initial story not just a bit wrong but entirely false.

express phd student

It’s not the first time the Express has been guilty of grossly misleading its readers. As usual, it gets a gentle slap on the wrists from the regulators and politely says ‘we’re very sorry’. No details on how the paper managed to get things so wrong. No guarantee that it won’t happen again.

A mediocre apology so long after the publication of the original lies hardly seems worth it. The damage has already been done. Far more people will have read and shared the original article than will see the apology. Worse still, the original article was republished word-for-word (at the same time as the original) on a far-right website called Stop White Genocide.

Although the Express has taken the article off its own website after conceding that it’s fake news, the republished version remains on display.

Stop White Genocide’s extremist credentials are evident on the website’s home page with links to posts such as ‘A Tribute to Horst Wessel’ (a Nazi stormtrooper leader in the late 20s turned into a far-right martyr after being shot dead) and ‘Hitler Pleas For Peace’.

Chillingly, the words ‘We must remember these traitors… James Ellison’ have been inserted underneath the reproduced Express headline.

stop white genocide

So the Express prints lies about an individual and he ends up on a list of traitors on a Hitler-supporting website. It shows you where irresponsible tabloid reporting can lead.

This sort of thing is a common occurrence. Type any inflammatory right-wing tabloid headline into a search engine and you will be likely to find links to all manner of dodgy extremist sites who either reprint the articles word for word or put their own spin on it.

It’s a dangerous web of false news with links to some violent far-right extremists. Worryingly, our tabloid press is feeding into it on a regular basis.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

WHAT THE TABLOIDS DON’T MENTION ABOUT THE TEACHER WHO ACCUSED SCHOOLS OF BRAINWASHING PUPILS

school

Last week, both The Sun and the Daily Mail reported on a teacher who has spoken out about what he sees as school pupils being brainwashed into being left-wing Labour supporters.

Calvin Robinson, an IT teacher at an Inner London secondary school, claimed that ‘young people are being indoctrinated to a left-wing mentality from a very young age.’ The Mail reported that ‘SCHOOLS ‘BRAINWASH’ PUPILS TO SEE TORIES AS ‘EVIL’ AND SUPPORT LABOUR, SAYS TEACHER WHO FRONTED DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION RECRUITMENT DRIVE. The Sun covered the story with the headline ‘ARE YOUR KIDS BEING BRAINWASHED INTO SUPPORTING LABOUR? TOP TEACHER CLAIMS CHILDREN ARE SECRETLY TAUGHT ‘FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE’ THAT TORIES ARE ‘EVIL’.

Both papers are keen to emphasise Mr Robinson’s credentials as a top teacher who worked with the DofE ‘I Chose To Teach’ campaign, which is fair enough. What neither paper mentions is that he is an active Conservative party member in West London. He is the Youth Officer for the Hampstead & Kilburn Conservative Association. He also stood as Conservative candidate in the Kilburn local elections in 2016 and was Campaign Coordinator in Ealing & Central Acton in the recent General Election.

None of these things disqualify Mr Robinson from having an opinion on teaching in British schools. He is himself a teacher, after all. But it’s a bit suspicious that the papers omit this information. It puts a different slant on the revelations when you realise that he has a prominent role within the Tory party for ‘reaching out and engaging with constituents under the age of 34’.

There will doubtlessly be teachers who wear their political colours on their sleeves, but is it happening regularly enough to imply that it’s rife within schools to the extent that one side is being shut down, as The Sun and the Mail do in their articles? Mr Robinson’s evidence itself seems to be fairly flimsy. It was taken from a blog he wrote on the Conservatives For Liberty website in June last year just after the Brexit vote.

The only actual instances he mentions are about the Brexit vote – one where a teacher said to pupils that the idea of the Leave side winning the referendum was ‘scary’, and another where an Executive Headteacher sent an email that included a link to a petition asking for another referendum. He also mentions that he was asked not to bring up the subject of Brexit the day after the Referendum as many of the pupils at his school are European.

None of this is necessarily evidence of pro-Labour or anti-Tory bias, as many Tories (as well as LibDems) campaigned on the Remain side too.

Recent research by TES found that there has been a shift towards Labour support among both primary and secondary school teachers (68% in 2017, up from 51% in 2015). But expressing support for a party in a survey carried out just before a general election does not equate to ‘brainwashing’ kids in the classroom. It will take a bit more than the Tory press reporting on a Tory party activist to set the alarm bells ringing on that issue.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

DAILY MAIL JUMPS ON DOCTOR WHO OUTRAGE BANDWAGON WITH FALSE ARTICLE ABOUT DECLINE OF MALE PROTAGONISTS

Dr who

Following the announcement of the first ever female Doctor Who on Sunday, which provoked the predictable ‘political correctness gone mad’ backlash by the usual suspect sections on social media, The Daily Mail spotted a clear opportunity to try and stir up outrage among its readers the next day with a false and out-of-touch article bemoaning the death of lead male actors on British TV.

The article was titled ‘EXTERMINATE! AS DOCTOR WHO CHANGES SEX, THE DAILY MAIL’S TV CRITIC CHRISTOPHER STEVENS ASKS THE PROVOCATIVE QUESTION… WHY ARE ALL THE MALE HEROES DISAPPEARING FROM THE BOX?

The article was part ‘politically correct feminists are taking over our programming’ and part attempt to have yet another dig at the BBC. But, despite being written by a supposed TV expert, it was full of more holes than a hipster’s jeans.

It started off by making a fair enough point, that of the discrepancy in earnings between the corporation’s top male and female presenters. A justifiable accusation of not practising what it preaches was hurled at the Beeb. There may be plenty of talk of diversity quotas but, as Mr Stevens points out, it is ‘equal in all things, except… in the wages department.’

But it quickly emerged that this was just the starter course on a menu consisting of little else but BBC-bashing.

Things moved onto moaning about the decision to cast the 13th (or is it 14th? I really can’t be bothered to check) Doctor Who as a woman. This, according to the article, is ‘another politically correct blow to a TV show that was once simply a children’s favourite’.

The Mail didn’t explain why a fictional time-travelling character regenerating for the umpteenth time as a woman rather than a man will spoil the fun for kids who will happily engage with stories consisting of talking animals and cartoons where characters die and immediately come back to life.

But in its attempt to jump on the ‘political correctness gone mad’ bandwagon, it seems the paper has misjudged the overall mood of Doctor Who fans. According to a Radio Times poll, only 15% of fans are against the idea of a female Doctor whereas over 40% thought the decision was ‘fantastic’.

But worse was to come. The paper linked the decision to what it saw as an over-riding culture of anti-male casting in British TV shows.

‘Already it’s rare to see a British detective show with a male lead’, bemoaned Stevens before adding ‘In almost every new British drama, men are relegated to sidekick status or else cast as moral weaklings’.

From here, things descended to conspiracy theory levels. ‘TV writers and film-makers who defy the trend will be condemned as sexist dinosaurs… Many will simply give in and submit the same pre-approved plots about dauntless single mothers beset by psychopathic males.’

Stevens then makes the rather ludicrous claim that the only space allowed for male characters on TV these days is as ‘rapists and villains’.

To back his theories up, Stevens names a handful of contemporary British TV dramas with female leads. But a quick look at the evidence shows that there are still plenty of British TV dramas being produced with traditional male leads.

Looking at programmes commissioned by the BBC over the last couple of years, there has been no shortage of male lead parts. Around half of dramas still have male protagonists. Stevens’ claim that men are relegated to sidekicks and no longer get a look in with detective dramas doesn’t bear up to scrutiny.

Dramas commissioned with male leads as detectives over the past couple of years include New Blood, The Moonstone and SS-GB. The 2016 Doctor Who spin-off series Class also had males in the lead parts.

Things are no different when looking at Beeb programmes in the pipeline. These include The Child In Time, a forthcoming BBC One drama with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role; Hard Sun, another BBC One drama featuring a male and female detective partnership; two Agatha Christie adaptations with male detective leads; and Strike, a detective series based on JK Rowling novels featuring a lead detective played by Tom Burke.

Sorry, but it looks like this politically correct world where it’s impossible for white men to find a lead part in TV fiction exists only in the minds of some science fiction fans and Daily Mail journalists.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

THE SUN’S CLAIMS OF BBC LEFT-WING BIAS DON’T ADD UP… LITERALLY

BBC_TV_Centre

Last week, The Sun ran an article titled ‘LEFTIE BBC’ in which the tabloid made the claim that the corporation was showing evidence of political bias towards the left-wing. It’s an accusation often thrown around by the likes of the Daily Mail and Britain First, so it seems only natural that The Sun would want in on the act.

The paper based its claim on the amount of money that the Beeb had spent on The Guardian newspaper (the left-wing scourge of the right-leaning papers) in 2016-17, figures it had obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

‘BBC accused of left-wing bias after spending £139,260 on copies of The Guardian’ said the sub-header. Interestingly, there were no details on who exactly was accusing the BBC of left-wing bias, other than The Sun itself.

Presumably nobody was, because beneath the finger-pointing headlines sat a complete and utter non-story.

Yes, the BBC spent £139k on 69,212 copies of The Guardian. But the FOI request also revealed that it spent £96,151 on 70,605 copies of The Times, £98,029 on 65,192 copies of the Daily Telegraph and even £28,661 on 56,317 copies of The Sun – the last of which is a shocking waste of license-payers’ money!

So although the BBC spent more money on The Guardian than any other individual paper, it spent more money and bought far more copies of right-leaning papers than left-leaning ones. The reason why the bill for The Guardian was higher is because it’s a more expensive paper.

The papers were purchased daily, according to the BBC, as ‘journalists were expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of stories on any given day.’

So why is The Sun trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes with this piece of journalistic tat? It seems that the BBC has become caught up in a tug of war between left and right in recent times, with both sides desperate to label it as a biased institution. On one side we have the right-wing tabloids accusing the broadcaster of left-wing bias, on the other side we have the likes of the Canary and Momentum screaming right-wing bias.

In truth, if the BBC is to be classed as sitting anywhere on the political spectrum, it’s in a fairly centrist position. Its news coverage is arguably slightly to the right of centre while its cultural output is slightly more left-leaning. Overall, it takes a less critical stance on government behaviour (e.g. austerity measures or foreign military interventions) than hard-hitting left-leaning publications such as the New Statesman, but it is also responsible for current affairs programmes, satire and artistic output that is more critical and left-of-centre.

The reality is that the BBC is a very diverse institution with many different departments and it’s pretty much impossible to pin it down and label it as one thing or the other. Yes, you can isolate individual stories or pieces of work and find evidence of bias, but to say that the corporation as a whole is deliberately leaning one way or the other politically is to misrepresent it. Both sides are guilty of repeatedly doing this by cherry-picking or, as The Sun has done here, distorting the facts.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.