Back in April 2015 BBC radio Nottingham broadcast its infamous Ashfield election hustings which will go down in history as the epitome of BBC bias against men and boys. The reason this issue is of note some ten months later is becasue the BBC have finished their “investigations” into the scandal.
Firstly, it’s worth gonging over the content of the broadcast question, the full details of which you can read here. The bias itself was incredibly blatant and fairly simple and it’s clear that the organisation tried to sabotage the election campaign of Justice for Men and Boys whilst favouring the incumbent feminist Labour Party candidate Gloria de Piero. Whilst some 649 other election broadcasts elsewhere on BBC local radio discussed a wide range of issues and featured diverse audiences, the BBC singled out the broadcast featuring Mike Buchanan of Justice for Men and Boys for special treatment. It made the bulk of the broadcast into what it termed a “gender debate” which was in fact a debate solely about issues impacting women with no discussion of men’s issues at any time. Not happy with rigging the questions in the debate to disadvantage Buchanan, for good measure the BBC took the extraordinary step of banning all men from the audience too. To rub things in further still, J4MB’ss second election candidate was not even permitted to attend his own hustings event, thus outlawing all contact between male voters and their own party anywhere on the BBC at any time during the election period. It was later admitted by senior BBC Nottingham staff that this targeting of J4MB had been entirely deliberate and no coincidence.
One of the stated goals of HEqual is to be entirely results driven and to build up a track record of successes. We don’t waste time with cases of sexism that are debatable, we simply dedicate the bulk of our time to taking on sexism we know we can defeat and where there’s absolutely no excuse for what has happened. Seeing this case as a blatant injustice and thus a relatively easy win we therefore fully engaged with the BBC complaints process, confident in the fact that the organisation would have to admit that at least some aspects of the broadcast breached the BBC’s Royal Charter.
I’m not gong to bore readers with every detail of my correspondence with the BBC complaints department – it’s a long and drawn out process and something that has taken an amazing ten months to complete and many pages of paperwork. Instead I’ll outline their key defences and “findings”, you can read its final decision here.
Exclusion of Ray Barry from his hustings
The BBC complaints team defended it’s failure to invite J4MB’s second candidate, Ray Barry, from his own hustings event on the grounds that J4MB were a smaller party and so the BBC were only required to give them “due weight” in broadcasts. This excuse may well have been valid had Barry appeared elsewhere on the BBC during the campaign but we couldn’t find a trace of him anywhere prior to the hustings broadcasts. Furthermore, it’s not as if Barry is some sort of unknown token candidate, he’s hugely experienced campaigner, an excellent speaker and someone with a extremely interesting background and who clearly had a huge amount of compassion for victims of discrimination.
The BBC’s outright rejection of this aspect of the complaint is nothing short of farcical, not simply becasue of the facts of the matter but also due to communications and the actions of other BBC staff. Long before the BBC official complaints department had finally responded to my concerns, BBC Nottingham itself actually admitted to wrongdoing over its treatment of Barry and admitted there was a need to hear his arguments on the air. . This back-peddling came about soon after the backlash against the Ashfield controversy and BBC Nottingham hastily organised a last minute interview with Barry on the eve of the last day of campaigning. This was of course too little and ridiculously late in the election period but it shows BBC Nottingham themselves realised they had treated Barry very badly. However, despite his chain of events and multiple members of BBC management acknowledging and highlighting them, it’s impossible to get this same admission or any acknowledgement of these events though the official BBC complainants channel. So even though the public were successful in forcing BBC Nottingham to stop mistreating Barry, BBC complaints insist on pretending that this never happened.
Above all else, the key point to take from the mistreatment and marginalisation of Barry was that it raised the significance of the Ashfield hustings event featuring his colleague. If the BBC had failed to give sufficient and fair coverage to his campaign then the need to treat other J4MB candidates fairly was critically important.
The BBC’s initial official response to complains about its ban of men from the audience of the Ashfield Hustings and rigging the questions to focus on women’s issues began as follows:
“Gender differences have featured strongly in this election campaign. These have been deliberately placed on the agenda by politicians – including by Mr Buchanan. He was targeting the constituency where Labour’s Women’s minister Gloria de Piero was standing”
“We believe it was editorially justified to unpick policy on women in front of an all-female audience with two candidates (among others) who have clear views and public stances on these issues. We were very careful to make sure that there was a fair balance of political views in the audience”
The first above paragraph is difficult to fault and rightly highlights the importance of gender issues in the campaign. Buchanan stood on a platform of human rights for men and boys whereas de Piero’s main concern was women’s issues. However there’s a deceptive switch made in the second paragraph in which the BBC transforms “gender” issues into “women’s issues” in a blink of an eye. This not only erases men’s human rights from the equation, it also eliminates almost the entire J4MB manifesto from consideration whilst simultaneously siding 100% with the agenda of Labour’s de Piero.
In the numerous appeals stages of the complaints process I’ve highlighted this fundamental and sexist flaw in the BBC’s defence, yet they just ignore the point. It seems in the world of the BBC, gender issues and women’s issues can be used interchangeably and are exactly the same thing (and men’s issues really don’t exist). Even BBC complaint staff happily used the term “gender debate”
The final sentence of the above defence is of course laughable – how can one possibly have a “fair balance of views” for what the BBC itself termed a “gender debate” in which one gender is banned from attending and banned from having their issues raised? It’s utterly absurd.
The BBC’s defence continued as follows
This particular debate should also be seen in the context of our wider election coverage – which has included three hustings debates, five political phone-ins and a significant number of news stories and other analysis of the issues where there have been no restrictions on those taking part. We believe our audiences expect candidates to be appropriately scrutinised and held to account in our programmes, especially during an election period.
Now, I most certainly agree we shouldn’t look at the debate in isolation, but what other coverage did the BBC give to J4MB during the election period? As mentioned above, Ray Barry wasn’t permitted to appear on the BBC until right before the polls opened so there’s no defence for the BBC there and that counts against them. As for Mike Buchanan, he managed to pop up for one minute on the BBC East Midlands Sunday politics show in which he was interviewed by a radical feminist. The thrust of the piece wasn’t to celebrate the emergence a group finally standing up for gender equality for men and boys, instead it was introduced in the context of a feminist who was outraged at the party’s very existence! Importantly, no male voter was seen speaking or interacting with Buchanan during the segment either.
Needless to say I challenged the BBC on their use of the “wider election coverage” defence and the fact it made the case against them stronger at which point they the redefined the scope of the entire exercise and stated it was “not open to us to consider your concerns about the entirety of the BBC’s coverage of the party across its output”. So, they use “wider coverage” as a defence against the Ashfield fiasco, yet when I debunk said defence and prove it only emphasises the biases then such evidence suddenly become inadmissible. In fact the scope of the BBC’s “investigation” became ever narrower through the complaints process, so much so that they only wanted to examine the content of the broadcast rather than so much as consider the fundamentally sexist format and audience make up.
The “heads we win, tails you lose” approach seen above continued throughout much of the complaints process. For example the the biased format was such that the BBC were as much Buchanan’s opponents as the other politicians. As a result, he was effectively forced to use his opening speech to highlight the unfairness of the debate and the BBC’s sexism against men. Clearly Buchanan would have much preferred to expose the sexism of De Piero as he had been planning for month, yet the fact his plans were so blatantly disrupted by the BBC was actually cited as proof by BBC complaints staff that Buchanan was treated fairly.
On other occasions when the BBC was beginning to run out of excuses they then introduced the trick of citing the catch-all of “editorial judgement“. So for example, the entire design of the programme (i.e. the main complaint) was eventually excused for this reason. The BBC did continue to insist there hadn’t been anything wrong with the format, but it’s clear that even if they’d shared everyone’s concerns about this issue, it would have still been permissible to ban men from the audience and rig all the questions to favour de Piero just as long as this was decided by editors and announced before the programme had begun.
I challenged the BBC on multiple occasions to point to just one instance of a male voter being permitted to interact with any J4MB candidate in any way anywhere on any BBC tv or radio channel yet they’ve not so much as acknowledged this request let alone attempted to address it. The BBC’s defence concluded as follows:
In this debate, the panellists were given the opportunity to explain their thinking on matters of concern to the electorate and to respond to criticisms of it. As chair, Sarah Julian ensured that all panellists had the opportunity to express their views and we feel the discussion was chaired in a fair and impartial way.
Again this is nonsense. J4MB was never ever “given the opportunity to explain their thinking on matters of concern to the electorate”. Half the electorate and their concerns were banned from discussion as were the topics in the J4MB manifesto. As for Julian being and sort of fair-minded host, well her performance wasn’t terrible but it became obvious she wasn’t fond of Mike and had a clear fondness for de Piero. The abuse Buchanan suffered from he deliberately rigged audience didn’t exactly aid his performance either. Furthermore the BBC is only judging any supposed “fairness” on Julian’s part in the context of a “debate” format that was totally rigged and thus fundamentally unfair by design (and deliberately so), a bit like assessing “fairness” in a Communist election vote where there’s only one candidate.
Politics of BBC staff
It’s quite fascinating to examine the Twitter followers of so many BBC staff to see what sort of political views they seek out and identify with. A glance at Julian’s twitter account shows she refuses to touch any newspaper other than the Guardian and she follows all sorts of feminist related accounts such as the Nottingham feminist action network, Women’s Hour and, an organisation opposing equalising men’s and women’s state pensions and even Julie Bindel herself (who wishes to introduce concentration camps for men). Furthermore the only party account she follows on there is of course the Labour Party.
Julian isn’t alone as the sole anti-male, pro-Labour feminist at BBC Radio Nottingham either who been shown to be hostile to Buchanan (and equality for men and boys). For example you may gave seen this viral video of Mike Buchanan absolutely destroying feminist tv host Francis Finn on Notts TV. This channel isn’t part of the bloated BBC network, but when she’s not presenting her show there, Finn’s main job is as a presenter on none other than BBC Nottingham. As with most BBC Radio Nottingham presenters we’ve analysed, her political interests on Twitter include the Labour Party and little else.
During the election you may also have seen Mike being interviewed by Emma Pearce on the Nottingham University radio station. From the interview it’s clear that Pearce is yet another gender feminist who’s absolutely clueless about men’s issues. Glancing at those Pearce has chose to follow on Twitter we see the likes of Caitlin Moran, Everydaysexism, UK Feminista, “no more page three” (and its founder), anti-male Labour politicians such as Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy, Nottingham Feminist Action Network, Kate Smurthwaite, numerous University of Nottingham feminist accounts and so on. In fact Pearce’s sexism against men is so obvious that she even follows someone named “Sarah Misandrist”. In total she follows some nine Labour party accounts and not a single figure from any other party (despite the fact that she’s interviewed the leader of at least one). The reason I mention Pearce in this article is becasue she’s recently landed herself a job at BBC Radio Nottingham of all places!
Of course the above three individuals aren’t senior enough placed at BBC Radio Nottingham to have to power to single handedly sabotage the J4MB election campaign but the above does give an insight into the mindset of your typical BBC Nottingham staff member not to mention the culture of the station. It should be noted that such people are not only hostile to men’s issues and in favour of feminist causes, but this bias against J4MB is compounded by their near 100% devotion to the party of Buchanan’s main opponent.
It was also possible to track down and analyses the Twitter accounts of some senior complaints staff in the BBC who were involved in decision making during the process. The final complaints stage is for a matter to be put before the BBC Trust, the only actually independent body involved in the process. However, the appeal for this to take place was blocked by Leanne Buckle, Senior Editorial Adviser at the BBC Trust.
To the untrained eye, Buckle’s selection of account to follow might appear somewhat more diverse than the BBC Nottingham feminist mob, yet there’s actually a even more disturbing pattern of direct attack on Buchanan by those she associates with. We’re not talking about individuals who’ve sent a few tweets dismissing J4MB – many have in fact gone to the effort of writing incredibly nasty articles about Buchanan or attacking him face to face on the radio in which they’ve come out with the most extreme slurs ever faced by Buchanan and his party. Here’s the “highlights”:
Rosamund Urwin: London Evening Standard, 7 March 2013
“I’m going to dub Buchanan a pant-pyromaniac, because he is guilty of all the same false stereotypes he perpetuates about “bra-burners”. He sounds bitter. Humourless. More importantly, though, he’s completely deluded.”
“the point of feminism — contrary to the mad rantings of Buchanan — was never to trample on men.”
Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph, 17 Jan 2015
“I hope no one will be so crass as to suggest they find something creepy about the “and Boys”
“some whisper that he is not the committed meninist he purports to be. Of his two ex-wives, they note, 100 per cent have been women. Couldn’t a man have filled this coveted role just as well? What PC prejudice led him to snub the claims of men? Until we see a male Mrs Buchanan, I fear that the leader of this much-needed movement may struggle to be taken seriously.”
Helen Lewis – New Statesman, 3 Jan 2013
Sarcastically says Buchanan is “definitely not a fruitcake” and sneers at male victims of sexism stating: “Attention, all you downtrodden men!”
Also celebrates delving into the private lives of men’s human rights activists and their families
Graham Linehan – extremely well known for constant (and ridiculous) opposition to the Gamergate ethics movement and men’s human rights generally.
John O’Farrell – BBC Woman’s Hour, 28 March 2013
“Mike’s movement, I’m afraid, is the male equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan was to slavery”.
Of course we’re not saying Buckle shouldn’t follow critics of J4MB, there’s certainly plenty of them out there and we cant’ be 100% sure she shares their views completely. The point is the Buckle’s friends only do outrageous smears with little or no attempt to so much as glance at the party’s manifesto – there’s no attempt at actual journalism or constructive criticism. In addition to the attacks on Buchanan, there’s also the obligatory pro-Labour bias in her selection of followers too, and of course she doesn’t follow anyone with any interest in equality for men or both genders. It’s therefore clear that Buckle should have recused herself from making a decision in this case as she’s clearly not going to be able to judge such a situation in a neutral and fair manner. We of course put our concerns to the BBC and like almost everything else it was rejected without examination or explanation.
By making use of the official BBC complaints process a number of key findings have emerged.
- The BBC can be as biased as it wants against a political party, even during an election campaign, just as long as the bias comes from editors and not junior staff or actual presenters. The bias has to be by design rather than accidental/spontaneous and has to be announced before broadcast. Similarly it can be sexist against its audience and exclude attendees based upon their birth characteristics if this is planned and announced in advanced.
- The BBC can repeatedly cite the defence of the context of “wider coverage” without ever needing to show proof or consider if said coverage suffers from the same faults and thus actually supports the complaint. If the later is indeed the case it this “wider coverage” will suddenly be deemed inadmissible and thus the goalposts moved as suits. It will then ignore all comments about such matters.
- Many staff members at BBC Radio Nottingham are firmly gender feminist and hostile to men’s issues. Even senior BBC complaints staff who were involved in considering this case are linked to opponents of J4MB and the men’s human rights movement. These biases are then compounded by widespread and seemingly obligatory support of the Labour Party (and a complete lack of interest in any other party)
- Even when BBC management admit to making mistakes, do so in writing and are forced to schedule a last minute interview in an attempt to remedy the mistakes then these events will still be completely ignored by the official BBC complaints process as if they didn’t exist.
- In the world of the BBC, “gender issues” and “women’s issues” are exactly the same thing and these terms can be used interchangeably. Men’s issues do not exist.
Ultimately the BBC complaints process is an utter farce and a total waste of time. There couldn’t be a more obvious case of bias against a political party and sexism against men and boys as a whole than this one, yet the BBC complaints staff wouldn’t admit anything wrong occurred, even after the staff responsible partially did so themselves! The bias in question was particularly serious according to BBC rules due to the fact it occurred during an election period, yet even when fundamental errors in responses from the BBC were pointed out then they’d simply ignore the facts or move the goalposts so the material in question became inadmissible.
I really don’t know what the answer is to the now institutional misandry in much of the BBC. We’ve seen its hopelessly biased reporting of the Jess Phillips International Men’s Day scandal, an entire series devoted to attacking men and men’s human rights on BBC Three (including further attacks on J4MB) which was immediately followed up by yet another attack by Reggie Yates. Our own ground-breaking research proved that the BBC is the only UK outlet other than the Guardian to fail to ever report a single case of a false rape accusation causing a man’s suicide and we’ve also exposed and challenged their dishonest coverage of the Eleanor de Freitas case. The biases against J4MB and men’s human rights are exacerbated further still when you consider the BBC’s incessant fawning and completely uncritical coverage of the likes to the Women’s Equality Party, members of which are of course BBC employees and use the organisation for seemingly unlimited free advertising.
The response from the general public to the broadcast was near unanimous in its condemnation of the BBC’s sexism against men and attack on the J4MB campaign and the controversy even made the national press. However, the BBC really couldn’t care less and even made a point of dismissing the opinion of the public. If you wish to complain about a BBC broadcast by all means do so but please don’t expect them to be taken at all seriously if the complaint concerns men’s issues (and certainly not if it’s about sexism against men combined with bias towards a female and feminist member of the BBC’s beloved Labour Party).
The only positives to take from this saga is that we’ve proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that the BBC complaints process and BBC Trust are clearly not fit for purpose. Furthermore, most members of the public can see for themselves the clear misconduct of BBC staff and sexism against men and boys by the BBC. Therefore the organisation’s complete lack of media ethics aids the likes to J4MB if exposed and it really does damage the reputation of the BBC quite severely. One could argue that the event itself was quite a coup for Buchanan, after-all, his party was seen as such a threat that the BBC had to blatantly ignore its Charter, throw impartiality out the window and deliberately sabotage the campaign of one of the newest and smallest parties in order to protect their preferred Labour candidate.
Even if you don’t particularly like Mike Buchanan and J4MB then it should still be a major concern that the BBC sabotaged a political party’s campaign and also engaged in blatant sexism against the men of Nottinghamshire too. They clearly have nothing but contempt for male viewers/listeners and certain BBC complaints staff have proved to be just as biased and sexist as anyone involved in the initial scandal. The amount of resources/effort the BBC have put into attacking J4MB is extraordinary considering the party’s size, I hate to the sort of things they’d get up to should the party continue to grow and have greater chance of success in a reformed electoral system.
(Note: Any assessments of BBC staff Twitter accounts were made at the time of the complaints or relevant interviews and may have changed since.)
Update – I’ve since had contact with BBC staff who’ve attempted to “explain” why aspects of the complaint were ignored later on in the complaints process. To be honest I don’t really buy their explanation and it seems to me to be fundamental flaw and quite frankly impossible to attempt to attempt to assess a broadcast in isolation from its wider context and any other related BBC broadcasts.