EXCL: disagreements rage at BBC London over ‘cuts’ v ‘savings’


3:14 pm - March 11th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Last week I reported on Liberal Conspiracy that journalists within the BBC were being pressured to replace the word ‘cuts’ with ‘savings’ by senior editors.

In particular I singled out BBC London, as my sources indicated that heated internal discussions had taken place within their news department.

Readers unearthed several examples of BBC online using ‘savings’ in absurd contexts. A complaint was also lodged by Labour over BBC London coverage.

Now, another source has contacted me after our first article to shed more light on what’s going on.

This is an edited version of their remarks.

———

Every morning at 9am the BBC London News team have a planning meeting. The aim is to discuss upcoming stories of the day.

Last Wednesday [2nd March 2011], near the end of the meeting, a journalist raised the issue. He said that it made little sense to report stories of ‘cuts’ as ‘savings’ because it did not resonate with the public.

He asked why their department was being asked to use ‘savings’ instead of ‘cuts’ because that is not how the public saw the issue.

Two other journalists present in the meeting made it known they also agreed with the point being raised.

It was clearly directed at the editor, who seemed uncomfortable with the issue being raised. He did not say much but listened intently to the concerns raised by journalists.

But it was felt he was increasingly uncomfortable with the discussion as it progressed.

During the internal debate, which was lively but not heated, some even suggested that perhaps both words should be used together. This was laughed off by some and rejected by the editor.

The editor said he would give the issue more thought.

———-

Though I’ve not found the paper trail yet, the hunch from my sources is that editors at BBC London are being instructed on this by senior executives, in response to pressure by the Conservative party.


(another spot from the BBC News front page, by @the_red_rock)

It is also obvious this practice seems to be prevalent not just at BBC London issue but at BBC online news.

If you work at the BBC and want to say something on the issue, get in touch via our online form.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I don’t know why anyone is surprised by this. I have for a long time regarded the BBC as one of the worst news organisations. Try giving 5Live a listen, and then you may have some understanding of where I am coming from. Packaged news is not news, it’s propaganda. The BBC has been guilty of this for some time, way before the election. I often wonder why the Labour party’s media team have not made more noise about this. I mean, can you imagine the furore if the DG had had a meeting with Alistair Campbell on how to present government policy? Yet this is exactly what happened between Andy Coulson and Mark Thompson.

2. Flowerpower

@ 1

can you imagine the furore if the DG had had a meeting with Alistair Campbell on how to present government policy?

It emerged at the Hutton Inquiry that such contacts between Campbell and senior news managers at the BBC were pretty frequent.

3. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

I mean, can you imagine the furore if the DG had had a meeting with Alistair Campbell on how to present government policy? Yet this is exactly what happened between Andy Coulson and Mark Thompson.

What, like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L6U0ZQE32E

Since total spending is going up, “savings” is a more accurate use of English than “cuts”.

@2 + 3

Hearsay.

6. Flowerpower

Compare and contrast the headline above this story –

disagreements rage at BBC

with the eyewitness evidence in the body copy –

During the internal debate, which was lively but not heated

– time to revisit Journalism 101?

7. Flowerpower

@ 5

It isn’t hearsay. Testimony was given to Hutton by those involved and the background correspondence were among the inquiry’s published documents.

@4 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflation

9. Flowerpower

The BBC should call the first £14 billion “Labour cuts” (as they were announced under Alistair Darling) and the last £2bn “coalition cuts” (‘cos that’s all Osborne and co. have added to the Labour plan for 2011).

The BBC is thriving on a diet of daily bad news consisting largely of speculation of what cuts/savings might bring. I watched Look North one night and all but one article was about what one lobby group or another thought might happen. There is never a rational discussion about where each party stands and the implications of each position. The coalition gets defensive and crudely attacks labour and labour tries to associate itself loosely with an anti-cuts position without saying which savings should be made. I know it is hard for the left to understand how biased the BBC has been and I think still is but your reporting of the conversation with the editor betrays the bias of the journalists. They has a certain belief and like assume “the public” agrees with them – they then try and produce pieces to support their position. It is lazy journalism simply to go out and find someone who is losing out from a change and then present this as news. It is much more professional and independent to explain why the change has been made and to examine the pro’s and con’s. Polling shows that the public is sophisticated and it understands and broadly supports the deficit reduction plan (labour lost on the platform of a slower and less aggressive approach) but is unsure of how fair it is.

11. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@5

He said it, you heard it.

12. Chaise Guevara

10 Neil B

“I know it is hard for the left to understand how biased the BBC has been and I think still is but your reporting of the conversation with the editor betrays the bias of the journalists. ”

Surreally, many on the left are convinced that the BBC is a conservative outpost and are just as patronising as you when they “explain” this to right-wingers.

The BBC is mandated to be as unbiased as possible, and it generally does a good job in acheiving this. If you think it’s horribly leftist, that just indicates that you’re a good way to the right.

In this 15th March BBC Online briefing on NHS shake up the word cuts is not used once; it is all “saving” or “savings”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12750695


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Exclusive: Conversations at BBC London over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  2. Jane Phillips

    RT @libcon: Exclusive: Conversations at BBC London over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  3. sunny hundal

    Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  4. GuyAitchison

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  5. Joseph O'Brien

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  6. Julia Hines

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  7. Paul Jakma

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  8. DanielPoxton

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  9. sunny hundal

    Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  10. Joseph O'Brien

    RT @sunny_hundal: Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  11. Jill Hayward

    RT @sunny_hundal: Exclusive: BBC London insider tells us about internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  12. Cornelius Griffiths

    RT @sunny_hundal: Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  13. Gez Kirby

    RT @sunny_hundal: Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  14. joe donnelly

    RT @sunny_hundal: Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  15. Nick H.

    RT @sunny_hundal: Any other BBC journalists willing to shed light on internal debates over 'cuts' v 'savings'? http://t.co/VKXGi0s

  16. Johann Hari

    Good work from @sunny_hundal showing BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  17. Shaheryar Mirza

    MT @johannhari101: BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  18. Ashley Wells

    Tories pressure BBC to report 'cuts' as 'savings'. How very autocratic of them! – http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  19. Ewan Pearson

    RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  20. JRS

    Tory pressure on BBC to substitute the word ‘cuts’ for ‘savings’ http://t.co/4P0aqy8 via @libcon

  21. The Z Factor

    RT @ewanpearson: RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  22. dontplaymepayme

    RT @ewanpearson: RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  23. pferron

    #condems CUTS now desribed as SAVINGS! @BBC under pressure I wonder? where is this pressure coming from one wonders http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  24. DisabledPeople

    RT @ewanpearson: RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  25. Simon Weston

    http://bit.ly/hATGmA BBC asked to refer to government cuts as "savings" – Big Society or Big Brother?

  26. Jane Gregory

    RT @ewanpearson: RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  27. Steph Weston

    RT @ewanpearson: RT @johannhari101 BBC journalists rebelling over renaming 'cuts' as 'savings' under Tory pressure http://t.co/lfgo2Bn

  28. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: Exclusive: Conversations at BBC London over 'cuts' v 'savings' http://bit.ly/h9FUbQ

  29. Steven B

    @LordSpur Anti-cuts protest! (Which is what the BBC were calling it) http://bit.ly/gY7tco http://bit.ly/hkM1iI





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