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BBC main bulletin blackout on leaders’ speeches bizarre

Posted on 24 November 2009 | 10:11am

The economy is always fundamental to any election, and the debates upon it therefore central to the choice faced by voters.

So yesterday, with all three main party leaders speaking to the CBI, was a useful and surely newsworthy opportunity for the leaders to set out their stalls, and for the public get a chance to hear what they were saying.

Well, you’d have thought so. Then again, you might have relied on the BBC 10 o’clock news. Not a word. Not one single word. No Brown. No Cameron. No Clegg.

In so far as there was an economic story, it was a puff piece by Nick Robinson on a shopping trip with shadow chancellor George Osborne who seemed to be saying he could solve the deficit and save the planet by getting government departments not to leave the lights on at night.

Ok, it wasn’t quite as interesting as that, and my viewing was disturbed by my own repeated exclamations to Fiona on the lines of ‘what about the CBI? Is this it? Are they not even bothering with it, not one word?’ ‘It’s like those advertising features we used to do on the Sunday Independent,’ was as near as I got to a response.

There may well be some newsworthy elements to Osborne’s ‘green economy’ plans being set out today. But to elevate a puff piece trailer ahead of any coverage whatever of three significant speeches by party leaders on the future of the UK economy was a misjudgement.

I don’t doubt that online and on screen, the BBC will have covered the CBI. Indeed I tweeted yesterday on a report online which stated that it was only when Cameron spoke that the audience got ‘fired up,’ a totally subjective judgement presented as fact.

But most people who have a genuine interest in what GB, David Cameron and Nick Clegg had to say yesterday, and who watched the main evening bulletin, are unlikely to have been living in that media bubble which assumes everyone is following the debates closely as they unfold.

Surely if there is one place where you should be able to expect at least some coverage of an event at which all three leaders made speeches to business leaders on the economy, it is the BBC 10 o’clock news?

Their speeches were substantial, policy-laden, and politically interesting, in GB’s case because he was setting out his analysis of different approaches to the economic crisis and to how we assist the recovery, in Cameron’s case because he was seeking to recalibrate the austere message of his Party conference with an addtional focus on growth. Throw in a clip from Clegg and the praise of the head of the IMF for GB’s handling of the crisis, and there was the makings, surely, of an intelligent and informative package, with or without the usual two minutes of unneeded punditry at the end.

But we got none of that. We got Osborne joking about the deficit with a B and Q till assistant, and Robinson thinking that if he asked soft questions is a mildly agressive tone, we’d think it was a tough interview. It was a puff piece pure and simple. Well done to the Tory spin department.

And is there anyone, highish up in the BBC, who might today at least ask the question – why their main bulletin decided not to bother with even a nanosecond’s coverage of something that surely started the day as a guaranteed item high up the running order?


  • MarcoFish

    It was the dramatic decline in Labour’s position overnight (a Tory lead of 6% transformed into 17%) wot did it; they know Labour is finished, doomed, busted, in the dustbin of history (you lot are on 22% for God’s sake). Or not ! Actually, if I was as nutty as you are, I would compare the huge kerfuffle in all the media about the 6% IPSOS-MORI poll, with the absolute silence about the 17% Angus Reid poll (the latter being a poll with twice the sample of the former and therefore much more likely to be reliable). Conspiracy, Labourite plot in SKY, ITN and the BBC ! We all know what you are up to, talking gibberish as usual. PS having worked for thirty years, I am only reduced to writing probably equal gibberish on this fine day because I have joined GB’s army.

  • crookedmouth

    I’m sure they will listen to you AC – after all, they did for Greg Dyke when you threw your dummy out of the pram last time round. Whats wrong with Robinson – oh yeah – he is somewhat sceptical of Brown’s credentials on the economy and isn’t the sort of patsy you can intimidate.

  • Hal G

    There is a definite discepancy between news as consumed by news-gatherers and news as consumed by the public. So a Gordon Brown speech made in the morning, so far as the news-gatherers are concerned, is boring by the time of the later bulletins. But most of us have not seen any news during the day, other than maybe the odd snippet here and there. I too was surprised there was nothing on the CBI last night. I have read the speeches this morning.

  • MairiG

    crookedmouth = Cameron in Gaelic.
    Thanks for making your own bias so clear, too.

  • Carole King

    Earlier bulletins I saw made no mention of the commendations by the IMF on Gordon Brown’s handling of the crisis last year.

  • @jlocke13

    nick robinson biased?…Just read his blog for the past couple of years and it is evident he had a socialist agenda…however just like the rest of the BBC he has now realised that his master next year will be the Tories…dont blame a guy for trying to keep his job!

  • Nick

    I have never understood Campbell’s near obsession with the BBC’s Nick Robinson. Did he feel the same about the two previous incumbents of that position- Andy Marr and John Coles- both of whom were unabashed Lefties? I suspect not. But then again, perspective has always been something that has been noticeably absent from A.C’s career, as Sir John Chilcott is no doubt about to discover…….

  • Andy

    Nick Robinson, Ex National Chairman of the Young Conservatives was pushing a socialist agenda in his blog!! I don’t think so.

    You may have a point regarding the BBC planning for a Conservative government & not wanting to upset them.

  • J.Crockett

    Hi Alastair,

    No mention of the latest Angus Reid poll from last night giving the Tories a 17% lead over labour and confirming the Mori as a rogue poll? At least try and be consistent, the poll lead certainly is.

  • Em

    This is a sad state of affairs considering yesterday’s story about the remains of that British journalist found in Lebanon. Every year, at least when I was a teen, Le monde diplomatique would publish the names of all the journalists who lost their lives in the previous twelve months and I remember me and my friends reading out the list in the school yard. Journalists were heroes to me then.

    Now I see journos interviewing politicians like they’re interviewing Lady Gaga, oh wait, Lady Gaga probably gets tougher questions. It’s embarrassing thing to witness. I have no idea how an intelligent man like Nick Robinson can debase his profession in this manner.

    This sounds harsh but I expect more of good journalists and they are letting us all down. Dumbing down the profession and the population. The brain is a muscle, cerebralness needs discipline and we’re all been lulled with one asinine media outlet after the other. One has to turn to HBO and shows like The Wire and The Sopranos to exercise the brain because the news shows are apparently catering to toddlers these days.

    Personally, I have the same reaction if the politician interviewed is from a party I support. These are the people who are, or are seeking to, control our legislature. It is a serious matter that merits a serious approach.

    Send all Westminster journalists to do a stint in Mexico, I say. Send them out to cover the narcoticos. Get them out of their little comfy world of leather wing chairs and single malts.

  • betty curtis


    Watched it all the way thru on BBC–PM presented a full & explanatory speech on deficit & recovery plans to ensure Growth—
    A very good & clear message to the CBI from PM

    Clegg was cut off during early stage–Announcement to viewers that they would be back for Cameron at midday.

    Cameron used the platform as usual for Party Politics & a change came with his introduction that mending the deficit would be hand in hand with a plan for growth.
    No Policies to tell us how they would do this except for same old suff “BOE to have full responsibility & not FSA”

    What a chancer changes his rhetoric to suit the moment.

    Later when businessman(no name)ie includes Costa Coffee outlets said ” Brown although had done everything right dealing with financial crisis” but went on to say “It was Cameron that “because he was in comfortable surroundings ie CBI Conference” & gave them the reassurances & answers to help businesses recover from the crisis”.
    It doesn’t surprise us that this is TORIES LOOKING AFTER TORIES– What to expect if the Tories get elected.

    The IMF Congratulated our PM for the actions he took & saved the World from a long economic depression & it is completely disregarded & wiped out of all News Bulletins. “DISGRACEFUL”

    The Labour Party has to get behind Gordon Brown & present to the voter he is the right man in the right job.

    Cameron is the messenger of the Thatcher ideology that devastated people’s lives & we will always remember the
    quote from her that “To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches”.

    Let’s give the voters the real choice that Socialism & The Labour party with Fairness for all & having A Social Conscience has been put into practice in the modern world by including safety nets for all it’s citizens from Birth to Grave with eg.extra financial help with Tax Credits & Winter Fuel payments. Just some of labour’s achievements.

  • katherine chibah

    I couldn’t agree more with AS’s blog about this. I watched the BBC 10 O’clock news last night and thought it was the most odd choice of lead story ever – patently biased and almost couched in terms that implied that the election had already been won by the Tories. How on earth does Nick Robinson get away with this? It’s so insulting to the audience. Never did Andrew Marr express such blatant partisanship. Robinson is a total disgrace and I wish the BBC would get rid of him.

  • AdamR

    Alastair, why do you keep moping on about how the unfair the media is to Labour/the Government. It seems you are a little upset because they aren’t playing to your agenda anymore.
    Accusations of bias look as silly as some of those made against the Beeb from the other side of politics. True, there are times when it can overstate either side’s case. But trying to argue that they are trying to deliberately undermine the Govts case is pathetic.

  • olli issakainen

    After watching Spooks yesterday evening on our TV, I stayed up late in order to watch CBI conference coverage on Sky News. But I did not notice any. Perhaps I was too tired or there was not, in fact, any coverage at all.

  • Em

    Obiter dictum

    Speaking of the problem with Westminster journalism more broadly: I remember looking at BBC job postings over the years when I lived in London and political journalism jobs required candidates have links to Westminster. Ostensibly one had to have sources within the power structure.

    Well, who can apply for that job? Not me who was raised by a single mother in poverty town without connections to power whatsoever. It seems clear that the BBC has no aspiration to have a United Colors of Benetton Westmister department.

    Same old people with the same old pedigree — which I’m sure makes the Tories very happy.

  • Ciaran

    Hi Alastair. Did you ever go round to government departments and tear ministers to pieces like Malcolm Tucker does in “The Thick Of It”?

  • crookedmouth

    MairiG – are you entirely sure about that. I suggest you check your Gaelic dictionary.

    As to bias – I detest the tories as much as newlab. Certainly AC’s surname tells us as much as we need to know about the man.

  • Hazico

    Am just repeating a post, as not sure if I got through.

    I wonder why the speeches were announced, but no detail?

    How could this not be in the public interest, considering
    the economy is such an important topic for us all?

    It does indeed sound like it’s been turned into a photo opportunity for George Osborne and the Tories.

    I thought the BBC were meant to be impartial?

    Maybe some lobbying generally has been going on behind the scenes to play down GB’s successes on the economy…I’ve certainly read and seen little detail on this in the mainstream press…and I’ve heard many right wing bloggers complain the BBC is “left” biased!Hope this is not getting through as a consensus…

    I think the public deserve full and balanced information- as intelligent people who will be voting next year!

  • Robin Lustig


    why don’t you listen to Radio 4 instead at 10pm? I went to the CBI conference, we carried clips from all three leaders’ speeches and did extended interviews with delegates and John Cridland. Everything you could have wished for!