As most anyone in the UK, from the UK, I grew up watching the BBC. Blue Peter, Friday Film Specials, and news – John Craven. Going on to a lifetime of watching the BBC. I still watch news on the BBC, but in a different way now. I actually now feel involuntary twitches of disgust every time I watch a piece on BBC news.
Before, I’d watch BBC News as kind of an extended family member – the logo, the studio, all familiar like a father figure. But now, it’s like you’re one of John Darwin’s children, discovering that your father has lied to you, likely lied to you all his life. I can say this, having covered events myself in Crimea, Donbass, seeing first hand how things were, and then how the BBC made them out to be.
The BBC lie. They twist, contort, distort. And a particular bias of the BBC in recent times, has been a strident anti-Russian polemic which seems to effortlessly correspond with the UK government’s own. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has stated many times how he views Crimea’s 2014 reunification with Russia as ‘annexation’, ‘under the barrel of a Kalashnikov’ etc. Who did the BBC send to cover Crimea, only Daniel Sandford (who duly came up with all the ‘annexation’ stuff on demand), a man who makes no secret of detesting Russia. A long journey through Sandford’s tweets would be to try to find something positive about the country. A rather shorter one, to find the countless negatives Sandord passes on, despite not evening being Moscow correspondent anymore –
Sandford also covered Euromaidan, and what was the BBC’s position on that? Blanket support at the time, only a year later getting round to admitting that things perhaps hadn’t been as they first portrayed them. But, by that time, protest had long turned into war in Donbass, as a result of the government Euromaidan put in power in Ukraine. What was the BBC’s take on that? The same as the UK government’s, against the Donbass uprising. They sent Daniel Sandford (pictured), who even trumped his Crimea efforts, with this, from June of 2014, containing the staggering line – ‘He is a 24-year-old who has taken up arms against the government in Kiev, after being convinced by the propaganda that they are fascists who hate Russian-speakers.’
‘Convinced by the propaganda’??? So now we’re just calling things ‘propaganda’ then, without any actual analysis or example? Is that what the BBC has come to, tragic irony of it therein.
Let’s just stop for a minute to think about that – the BBC, and UK government supported Euromaidan – an uprising against a democratically elected government. But they opposed the uprisings in Crimea (which always had the right to hold a referendum), and then Donbass against an illegitimate, undemocratic government… (Euromaidan activist pictured here)
In Donbass, the BBC also conveniently forgot to do a hallmark of their Euromaidan coverage – speak to people on the street. As they found on the Maidan streets support for Maidan, they’dve found on Donbass the same for their own uprising. But, the BBC never did that. I know for a fact, from having worked in Slavyansk in spring of 2014, that the BBC were almost never on the scene. They’d sit in the hotel in Donetsk, calling me for updates from the scene, which I gave them right until I realised they were twisting and deceiving.
Fast forward to August, and I was working in Lugansk, with the Ukrainian military being pushed back further from the city every day. Where were the BBC? Nowhere near Lugansk, that’s for sure. What were they writing? The absolute opposite of what was happening, reporting that the Ukrainians were retaking the city ‘block by block’…. Nor were they making any mention of the relentless Ukrainian shelling pounding civilian areas of Lugansk.
As for MH17, naturally, the BBC towed the western line that it was a ‘Russian/separatist BUK‘, happy to take the bulk of their information from the fatally discredited Bellingcat agency, never once on the scene. Myself, around 60 hours on the scene, countless video material, witness interviews … didn’t seem of interest, until they did finally contact me in October of 2015. But, then, on Twitter, Eliot Higgins let slip (as per tweet here) this was only for a documentary they were making on ‘MH17 conspiracy theories’.
I declined to speak to them. I did record this video for them though – needless to say never used –
And in fact in any case I’d long since decided not to speak to the BBC, after their coverage of Crimea and Donbass left them not to be trusted. The final straw had been when a journalist I’d had contact with as a freelancer, seemed like a nice guy and all, contacted me in late 2014, early 2015 asking to use footage I’d filmed in the war-torn settlement of Nikishino, Donbass. I was reluctant, but he assured me over again, it was for a ‘truthful’ project, to show things ‘just as they were’ … and what happened? It came out as ‘Russia’s Imperialist Warriors’.
That was the final straw for myself and any working relationship, or agreement, with the BBC.
And on from there, of late, the BBC barely hid their delight as an Oxford University textbook which had showed Crimea as Russia was reprinted after Ukrainian complaints, highlighting the supposed ‘grave mistake’, quoting the Ukrainian side, not speaking to anyone from the Russian.
In mid-March, writing an effective press release for NATO’s training drills in Norway in the face of that beloved BBC buzz phrase ‘Russian aggression’. In late March switching that to ‘aggressive Russia‘, as they were similarly supportive of US increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe.
Also in March, the BBC had made sure readers’ sympathy would not be with lawyer, Yuriy Hrabovsky, murdered in Ukraine, by blasting the headline ‘Ukraine crisis: ‘Russian soldier’s’ lawyer found dead’. As for Nadia Savchenko? A revealing BBC propaganda masterclass here, where they appear to give both sides, by speaking to both sides, but the key difference being they don’t ask both sides the same question.
So, the Ukrainians get to say why they think she’s not guilty, the Russian side never get their say on that. But, to the average viewer, both sides interviewed, job done.
What happens if you want to take issue with the BBC on this blatant propaganda? I did so in January – after this article went, I felt, way beyond all reasonable boundaries.
Complaint Summary: Biased, slanderous, unfair attack on journalist.
Full Complaint: This article only amounts to an attack on a Russian journalist – Yevgeniy Poddubnyy. It makes blatantly loaded statements which amount to an ad hominem attack on a journalist, and his work – ‘As with his coverage of the fighting in east Ukraine during earlier stages of the conflict there, Poddubnyy gave viewers a one-sided and misleading account of the military situation.’ Where’s the reference to his earlier reports there? In fact, where’s the direct reference even to what Poddubnyy said in this report? Nothing, it’s just a cheap, personal attack on a working journalist in a conflict zone.
And this statement, suggesting that Poddubnyy is some harbinger of war ‘In recent months, Poddubnyy’s movements have tended to prefigure major military developments.’ The man is a war correspondent – it’s understandable he’s sent to where conflicts are. However, suggesting that his being sent to a place somehow presages war, as Ennis does here, is deeply manipulative, and misleading. No mention of Poddubnyy being in Donbass in times where there’s been little conflict, of which has often been the case – March, April, August of this year (2015) for example. Instead, a personal attack on a journalist working in a conflict zone, with Ennis seemingly relishing in the heightened danger this puts Poddubnyy in, leading up to the standard BBC rhetoric of Russian involvement in Donbass. The latter, as lamentable as it is, is sadly a given.
What is absolutely unacceptable here is the BBC authorising an article attacking an individual, a journalist working in a conflict zone – poorly sourced and referenced, the emphasis simply on assailing an individual and his work. I’ll openly declare that I know Yevgeniy Poddubnyy. And I also earlier thought I knew the BBC – how did it come to this, that the BBC has become simply a tool to attack individuals, without any attempt to conceal the bias of its rhetoric. I wish to complain in the strongest terms about this disgraceful article.
What happened? Well of course, none of the ‘escalation’ that the BBC had written so Cassandra-esque of, materialised. But nonetheless, they found nothing wrong with the article –
Dear Mr Phillips
Thanks for getting in touch regarding an article on the BBC news website.
We understand you feel this article is a biased and unfair attack on a Russian journalist.
This article pointed out that Yevgeniy Poddubnyy’s coverage of earlier fighting in the Ukraine suggested that violations of the ceasefire were being committed exclusively by Ukrainian government forces and that this was in contradiction to the findings of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe which had noted violations on both sides.
The article also pointed out that Yevgeniy’s movements have at times anticipated Russian military actions and we wouldn’t agree that this amounted to an unfair or an ad hominem attack on the reporter.
We appreciate that you would like to have seen more detail given as to what was actually said in Yevgeniy’s reports and we appreciate your feedback about our article. All complaints are sent to senior management and our online news teams every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure your complaint is seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future reporting.
Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.
As Orwell wrote in 1984 – “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”, and there’s a lot more 1984 in the BBC, this agency of misinformation, this British agency of anti-Russian propaganda. Less than 7 years short of 100, the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation is sadly now, just an agency of propaganda, lies, and misinformation. A boot stamping on the face of everything the BBC makes itself out to be.
The only question for lifetime BBC viewers is, was it ever thus? Has the BBC been lying to me all my life?