IS THE BBC ANTI-LABOUR?

December 21, 2019

Pride of Britain Awards - London

THE PRESS GANG report on the Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic? was published on December 7.

Press Gang found the BBC was biased in its journalism, leaving the Corporation open to the charge that the broadcast was a deliberate attempt to interfere in the General Election. 

The interim report lists serious breaches of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines in the 59 minute programme first aired on July 10.

You can read the report here.

The Panorama programme is still available on iPlayer — the link is here.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines can be accessed here. 

The Press Gang 16 page report — rush-released to be available before the election — cites nine separate occasions when programme-makers were in breach of the Editorial Guidelines. 

Copies were delivered  to various media organisations in London.

A hundred went to senior managers and journalists at the BBC. 

Other copies went to the Channel 4 News, Sky News, LBC, the Guardian and the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday

Here’s the report’s dramatic cover. 

BBC_cover_08_b

Our investigation into this rogue journalism continues.

This is important work and you can underwrite this project by supporting our crowdfunded site — here. 

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THE REPORT was published on Saturday, 7 December 2019. 

The next morning, the BBC Press Office got in touch and asked for the following statement to be included:

The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty. Panorama explored a topic of undoubted public interest, broadcasting powerful and disturbing testimonies from party members who’d suffered anti-Semitic abuse. We also heard from former Labour officials, some of whom defied non-disclosure agreements to speak out about their experiences inside the Party and its anti-Semitism crisis. This shows the serious questions facing the party and its leadership on this issue. The programme adhered to the BBC’s editorial guidelines, including a full right of reply for the Labour Party. John Ware is a highly experienced and respected investigative journalist, whose track record includes critically-acclaimed and award-winning reports. We reject any claims Panorama took any of the evidence out of context. 

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NOTE
1 Paddy French declares an interest in this issue. A life-long Labour voter, he joined the party after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader.
2 Much of this article is based on the work of others including The Canary, Electronic Intifada, Vox Political and Jewish Voice for Labour.
3 On December 13 the article was amended to include the statement from the BBC.

4 There is a typo in the Press Gang pamphlet Is The BBC Anti-Labour? In the note on page 15, the figure 763 should read 673. The error does not affect the other figures in the note which remain correct. 

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Published: 7 December 2019
© Press Gang
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THE END OF THE MR & MRS WILLIAMS SHOW

June 27, 2018

rebecca_logo_04

BROADCASTING WATCHDOG Ofcom has appointed a new Director of its Wales office.

Eleanor Marks, a senior career servant in the Welsh government, takes up the post in September.

A Welsh-speaker, Marks was previously the government’s Director of Communities and Tackling Poverty and also worked for HM Revenue & Customs.

The appointment means Ofcom Wales will not become a family affair.

When Rhodri Williams stepped down in March as Director, there was speculation he would be replaced by his wife, Elinor.

As Regulatory Affairs Manager, she was the effective number 2 — and had stepped into Rhodri Williams shoes when he was seconded to Ofcom London in 2012.

The couple were married in 2017 but for an unknown number of years before that had been conducting a secret affair.

Rhodri Williams

MR WILLIAMS …
MYSTERY SURROUNDS the sudden departure of Rhodri Williams as Ofcom’s £120,000-a-year Wales Director. The 62-year-old had been in the post for 14 years. Controversy has dogged his career in the media. He was gaoled in the 1970s for his part in the campaign for a Welsh language television channel. He was one of the founders of the independent production company Tinopolis but was dramatically dismissed in 2001. It was during this period that he earned his nickname “Billions”. A full account of his early career can be found in the articles A Man Of Conviction? and A Licence To Censor. In the latter piece Rebecca editor Paddy French makes a declaration of interest.
Photo: Ofcom

The appointment of a career civil servant marks an attempt by Ofcom to bring to a close a turbulent period in its Welsh operations.

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IT BEGAN in March 2017 when it was revealed that a valuable contract had been awarded to the lobbying firm Deryn without going out to contract.

Initially, Ofcom defended the contract.

But when Assembly AM Neil McEvoy intervened and demanded a formal investigation, Ofcom backtracked.

In October 2017 the watchdog admitted that its tendering procedures had been broken.

It added that several unnamed staff members would be given “further training”.

Ofcom would not say if Mr and Mrs Williams were the staff members involved.

Nor would Ofcom confirm or deny that Rhodri Williams’ decision to leave the organisation had anything to do with the scandal.

Then, in March this year, Rebecca published The Mistress Of The Man From Ofcom revealing for the first time that Rhodri Williams and his wife had been involved in a long-standing relationship.

The affair raised the issue of patronage at Ofcom Wales.

It is not known when their liaison actually began but Rebecca discovered they first met back in the 1990s.

Her career path has partly followed his.

She joined the Welsh Language Board in 2003 when he was chairman.

She joined Ofcom in 2007 as Communications Manager when he was Director.

Ofcom declined to say if Rhodri Williams had been involved in her initial appointment or her later promotion to Regulatory Affairs Manager in 2011.

On May 9 Rebecca published another article — Update: The Mistress Of The Man From Ofcom — on the search for a new Director.

ElinorWilliams

… MRS WILLIAMS
OFCOM’S DECISION to appoint a civil servant marks the end of the Mr and Mrs Williams show. In normal circumstances, Elinor Williams would have been a favoured candidate: a reorganisation in 2011 saw her become the No 2 at Ofcom Wales and the following year she stepped in as Director while Rhodri Williams worked in London. The departure of her husband and the scandal surrounding the Deryn contract appear to have persuaded Ofcom to choose an outside candidate.
Photo: Ofcom

We asked why Ofcom’s Welsh page still showed Rhodri Williams as Director when the watchdog had said he would leave at the end of March.

Ofcom then amended the page.

Northern Ireland Director Jonathan Rose was now shown to be also acting as temporary head of the Welsh operation.

But the entry for Elinor Williams had been changed: her photo had disappeared and her title had been altered.

Instead of Regulatory Affairs Manager, she was now described as Principal, Regulatory Affairs.

Ofcom declined to explain why her title had changed — or if it involved a pay rise.

The watchdog also altered the entry for a new member of staff, Lloyd Watkins.

Rebecca had asked if  Rhodri Williams had been involved in his  appointment to the apparently new position of Regulatory Affairs Advisor in January.

Ofcom declined to answer.

Watkins’ web page entry originally made it clear he had  worked for various Labour organisations and Assembly Members.

The new entry saw all his Labour Party connections removed.

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IT IS NOT known if Elinor Williams applied for the job of Director.

The decision to appoint someone else has headed off another potential embarrassment for Ofcom.

The Welsh Assembly AM Neil McEvoy has been keeping a close eye on the appointment process.

He told Rebecca:

“I’m pleased that Ofcom Wales is now moving forward after a very embarrassing situation.”

“Ofcom is a competition regulator, so to be exposed awarding contracts without any competition was bringing the organisation into disrepute.”

“It looked worse still when the contract was awarded to a controversial lobbying firm who had two of its directors sitting on Ofcom’s Advisory Board for Wales.”

“Unfortunately, there’s a real jobs for the boys and girls culture in Cardiff Bay that means too often the best people don’t get the best jobs.”

“We need competition regulators like Ofcom to work to end that practice, not take part in it.”

“I hope with a new Director in place they can have a fresh start and fight for equal opportunity in Wales, where every person and company has a fair go.”

“I’ll be watching very closely.”

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Published: 27 June 2018

© Rebecca

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COMING
THE DEATH OF CARL SARGEANT
LAST NOVEMBER Labour Cabinet minister Carl Sargeant hanged himself. His suicide followed allegations that he had sexually harassed women. Rebecca investigates these allegations and charts the attempts by Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Labour establishment to cover up their role in the affair.

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Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

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If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 

 

 


CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

Note: this article was originally published on the Press Gang website. 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

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THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

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WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

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THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

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EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

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Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
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Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

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