BBC v. David Frum

The world according to David Frum:

So I had my own first-hand encounter with the BBC’s famous bias ? and it was indeed breathtaking. I took part in the BBC?s “Newsnight” program with two other guests … Before the three of us got to business, “Newsnight” broadcast an introductory video clip. It was that clip that was my perfect moment of news slanting. A reporter at the gates of Buckingham Palace told us that a small crowd was waiting for President Bush, and that its mood was mixed. Cut to clips from three members of that crowd: all negative. (One of the negative voices was American ? that was apparently all the balance the broadcaster required.) Now here’s the punchline: I recognized one of the three ? I’d seen him earlier that day at an anti-Bush rally in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In the interim, he’d changed into casual tourist clothes ? and the BBC was now presenting him as a representative of ordinary British opinion.

I pointed out this distorting selection bias in my first answer to one of moderator Jeremy Paxman’s questions. He was very impatient with me.

Poor, poor David. Was the host impatient? Straight from the exclusive Sadly, No! transcript room, we offer the following:

Paxman: There were lots of people in that piece that were very supportive of George Bush. What is your point? [Although Frum wrote as though the Buckingham gates piece preceded the studio segment, it did not.]

Frum did concede that he referred to the first taped segment, and Paxman argued that one of the three people quoted was not, in fact, negative. Frum disagreed (“you’re quite wrong” he offered.) What had the first man said? This:

As a Londoner, I think we should respect the fact that he’s here. Yes, make your demonstration, at least it’s gonna be heard this time rather than, you know, from 7 or 6000 miles away in Washington, he’s not gonna hear, now at least you’ve got a chance to make your say.

And the second, “anti-Bush” fellow — the one who Frum presumably claims organized an anti-Bush rally? He offered this anti-American attack:

Him coming to this country is gonna make things worse than they already are. They’ve closed most of London just for this one person. 15,000 police officers, you know, it’s ridiculous.

Such vicious attacks on Bush, it’s a wonder he’s still alive over there. And by the way, is David Frum a moron or does he actually think that someone who organized an anti-Bush rally should not be quoted (for a few seconds) by the BBC? Did the BBC know the man to be the organizer of a rally? In Frum’s paranoid mind, they probably did it on purpose. And needless to say, the host of the BBC program might have acted surprised because the studio interview followed a long (and quite boring we thought) piece where many people were pro-Bush, pro-US or anti-European. (Using the somewhat infantile strategy where anyone that says something negative is anti- something and so on, you know, like Frum does.)

We suspect that Frum did not see the entire show he was on, but nevertheless drew conclusions about 30 seconds of a taped segment he did see. And frankly his assessment of said segment strikes us as, well, pretty incompetent.

There is no transcript online, but you can watch the video here. The Buckingham gates segment with the interviews starts about 2:30 minutes into the program. The studio interview with Frum & friends? Right around 19 minutes.



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