Wednesday, 1 November 2017


Some examples of "journalism"


"Councils are being urged to let parents on the school run use bus lanes. Campaigners want to give parents a way around rush hour traffic"

At the time of writing, the world is burning before us, fuelled by fake news, misinformation, and corruption of social media by foreign powers, all of which are causing deep, almost unbridgeable divisions in society and the breakdown of consensus and reasoned debate.

Into this steps a car leasing company who decide that what the country needs is a fake story about "campaigners" lobbying for school-run parents to be allowed to use bus lanes.

A story that, by design, will make people angry and cause division.

Nottingham Post

Nottinghamshire Live (Nottingham Post)
Facebook page


Story made lots of people angry

But wait, there's more.

The company also gets this story into numerous local papers across the country, just locally to Nottingham it was covered by :

Buxton Advertiser

Hucknall Despatch

Ilkeston Advertiser

Ripley and Heanor News

Worksop Guardian

Imagine the conversation where this was pitched to the newspapers parent company...

Leasing Company : "We've got this story that will get you loads of clicks and engagement"

Newspapers : "Sounds good! Any catch that we should know about?"

Leasing Company : "Err, well, it's a bit fake and it will make your readers angry for no good reason, thus contributing to the polarisation of society"

Newspapers : "But we get lots of clicks, yeah?"

Leasing Company : "Absolutely"

Newspapers : "Where do we sign?"



From this article by Michele Anderson which states that a piece on rural America in the well known German publication "Der Spiegel" was, in many respects, simply made up. Anderson takes the example of the depiction of Fergus Falls city administrator, Andrew Bremseth,stating that :

"Relotius [who wrote the Der Spiegel article] got three facts right [Bremseth's age, where he grew up and where he studied]. Everything else, from the claim that Bremseth carries a Beretta 9mm on his person while at work (“I would never ever wear a gun to work, and I don’t even own a Beretta.”), his disdain for a potential female president, his comment that Trump would “kick ass” (“Never said that”), and even his college-era preference for 18th century French philosophers (“Never read them”) and the New England Patriots (“I’m not a fan of them at all”), is complete fiction...Perhaps the oddest fiction in a list of many is Relotius’ depiction of Bremseth as someone who “would like to marry soon…but he has not yet been in a serious relationship with a woman. He has also never been to the ocean...We can attest that Bremseth has indeed been to the ocean, by his account, “many times” and is currently happily involved in a multi-year, cohabitational relationship with a woman named Amber."

Relotius was subsequently fired by Der Speigel for inventing facts in multiple stories. Der Speigel describe his actions as "a low point in Spiegel's 70-year history".




Dec 2018 : Two footballers, one black, one white, buy homes for their mums. Their stories are not reported in the same way.

See also :


Update Nov 2018 : New research summary from DoT here (shame none of the news articles (e.g. The Guardian, The Evening Express, The Manchester Evening News) linked back to the original study.


Nov 17th 2018 : The Sun and The Guardian. 


On the Plus side, brilliantly clear and concise blog about Brexit by Very clear, concise blog about Brexit by, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS), Chris Grey

Been reading an old Guardian article by Anne Perkins that says "the Brexit vote was not about immigration. Immigration was never top of the list of concerns of leave voters". Unfortunately the linked research contains this word cloud of Leave voters concerns"

Unfortunately the most cursory look at the linked research (by the British Election Survey) contains this word cloud of Leave voters concerns.

Immigration biggest concern of leave voters in BES study


2014: There is something different about one of these recent MailOnline headlines. Can you spot the odd one out?

Can you spot which headline is framed differently to the others?

Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right

BFTF also notes that the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Birmingham Mail, ITV, The Independent and Sky News all managed to cover the story without headlines that gratuitously referred to the Rafiq's faith.

Complained to IPSO who responded with:
"IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we will need to consider the position of the party most closely involved....

BFTF notes the phrase "a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest". Given how hard it is to get Muslim orgs to respond on anything, this is almost an insurmountable hurdle - as the people who drafted the wording were no doubt fully aware. It is also a hurdle that is not present in the procedures for any other regulator.

The story was supported by advertising from Lemsip, Channel 5, Mercedes and Ambi-Pur :


Channel 5



Mercedes response to BFTF was typical of the way companies were happy to pay ad-money, but not so happy to take responsibility for the content those ads were paying for:
"When Mercedes-Benz purchases advertising space, it is done prior to the allocation of the journalistic content. In this Mercedes-Benz has no control, nor can we dictate to the media as to what articles we approve to be advertised along side. The editors at the newspaper in question decide this.

I would like to assure you that neither the location nor the content of the articles surrounding any Mercedes-Benz advertisement is a reflection of the views or the values of Mercedes-Benz. However, I have referred your comments on to the appropriate parties within our company for their consideration."


May 2016 : BFTF has been very disturbed by the way divisive "dog whistle" messages were used against Sadiq Khan by Zac Goldsmiths Conservative campaign for the London Mayoral elections. This kid of gutter politics damages community cohesion, prevents debate about the real issues, and discourages minorities from entering the political sphere...

The Anti-IS IS Imam
David Cameron said, in the House of Commons, that "Suliman Gani - the honourable member for Tooting has appeared on a platform with him 9 times. This man supports IS."

According to a Daily Mirror article Goldsmith concurred "To share a platform nine times with Suliman Gani, one of the most repellent figures in this country, you don’t do it by accident."

Peter Osbourne, again in the Middle East Monitor, writes an open letter to Downing Street, which concludes:

"In the light of the prime minister’s intervention at PMQs I interviewed Mr Gani. He told me that he condemns IS and has campaigned against IS. He also showed me citations, press articles and other materials showing that he has worked alongside a local synagogue and with local churches. This is not the behavior of someone who supports IS.

To sum up, the prime minister has made a very serious charge against a British citizen – namely that that he supports IS, the most notorious terror group in the world. Neither he nor his spokespeople (ie you and your colleagues, Ms Allen) have been able to provide a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. Since he is unable to provide the evidence, I believe the prime minister must urgently withdraw his false and profoundly damaging assertion about Mr Gani.

Could I remind you of paragraph 1.2.c of the Ministerial Code. It states that: “It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation.” The prime minister will be familiar with the contents of the Ministerial Code, since he wrote a foreword to it..."

...It would be utterly discreditable – indeed damnable - if the prime minister’s slur against Mr Gani were to remain on the record. He must either substantiate it, which I am certain he cannot do - or withdraw it, with a full apology."

The brains behind the campaign
The media team behind the Goldsmith campaign is described in this article by Simon Hatterstone, in which he comment on how a meeting with Goldsmith finds the candidate accompanied by a media advisor who works for the company co-founded by campaign strategist Lynton Crosby. Another co-founder, Mark Fullbrook was in charge of the Goldsmith campaign but, according to Hatterstone, " don’t need Crosby at the helm for a campaign to bear all his hallmarks..."

Crosby is famed for use of the "wedge strategy" which aims to select and campaign on an issue that will cause dissent in the opposition party - focussing on simple messages that are sent out repeatedly.

Crosby's signature move is the “the dead cat”, which has been described by Boris Johnson thus :

"There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”


Mar2016 Dear NASUWT (

Just read a BBC report which said :

"Increasing numbers of pupils are coming to school hungry, anxious and unable to concentrate because of family financial pressures, a teachers' union has said. The NASUWT union said growing numbers of teachers and schools were providing food, equipment and clothes for pupils."

But BFTF can see no actual data supporting the assertion that numbers are increasing.Is this data available and, if so, where can one find it?

The BBC responded to a challenge by saying :

"The claim that increasing numbers of pupils are coming to school hungry and anxious because of family financial pressures was attributed to the teachers' union NASUWT. The article provided details of some of the findings of the NASUWT survey in relation to these claims.The view that such problems were increasing was then attributed to NASUWT and the teachers’ survey. But, of course, it’s for readers to form their own views on the validity of the survey and its findings."

Not exactly sure what value the BBC journalists are adding here...

Challenging the BBC on the NHS Bill in 2012

BFTF sent the following complaint to the BBC, it is pretty self explanatory.

I have been very disturbed by the lack of coverage of the recent NHS Bill and feel the BBC has failed in its duty to inform and explain this key part of current affairs to its listenership. In particular :

i) The coverage during early March - when the Bill was being debated in Parliament and when the need for public awareness was at its height, was almost zero. To take one example, the BBC Radio 4 flagship Today programme covered it only once, for 2 minutes on 10th March in the weeks preceeding its passing in Parliament. Other items the Today programme covered on that day included 4 mins on a theme park, 6 mins on bagpipe day and 8 mins on Jubilee celebrations.

ii) The coverage gave no context to the issues. At no point did I hear any consideration given to the concern that the Bill would remove responsibility from the Secretary of State. Nor was there any mention of the increase in the amount of private work allowed in the NHS to 49%. Nor was there any consideration of whether competition and privatisation actually deliver any benefits to the NHS.

I can recall watching in utter disbelief as the BBC, and other major news providers, essentially “blacked out” concerns and protests in the days when they most needed to be covered .

This experience has left my trust in the news output of the BBC utterly shattered and left me wondering what else you are failing to inform me about.

I expect better of the BBC. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

The BBC rejected the complaint as it was more that 30days after the broadcast. Apparently the time limits used to be longer but was reduced to 30 days in the name of "efficiency". Lol, so that's what they call putting hurdles up for complainants is it? ******************************

16 Sep 2015 Jeremy Corbyns First PMQT
New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held his first Prime Ministers Question Time on the House of Commons today, and his innovative approach of using questions for the public was of great media interest. It was the lead item in BBC Radio 4's "PM" programme, but BFTF was hugely disappointed by the way PM gave around 21 minutes airtime to talking ABOUT the PMQ, as compared to just over 1 minute reporting what was ACTUALLY SAID in the Questions and Answers. Unsurprisingly, this approach meant that only a very small proportion of what Cameron and Corbyn said was actually reported.

It felt like the PM team were more interested in fluffy discussions about Corbyns tone and clothing than in the questions themselves. BFTF felt let down and that PM had failed to inform the public properly.

Dear BBC, This is not the way to keep the British Public informed

The entire debate can be read in the Independent

25 Jul 2015
Very disappointed to see the following headline in the MailOnline on 25th July 2015 :

The report, by Michael Powell, describes how community leaders condemned the incident - but does not bother to quote what they say. In contrast, the report presents two social media posts as evidence of a "groundswell" of support for the attack on the vehicles.

The report fails to mention that there are organised cross-community groups in London who are active in disrupting immigration raids (see here for example).

Identifying the people who attacked the vehicles as a "Muslim gang" in the headline implies that they were acting out of religious belief and that other Muslims, anywhere in the country, could start behaving the same way.

Complained to IPSO under Clause 1 (accuracy) with these comments : "Story is distorted. No quotes from community leaders condemning incident, yet prominent space given to two social media comments from individuals. No mention of cross-community groups in London who are actively resisting immigration raids."

and under Clause 12 (Discrimination) with these comments : "Faith of people who attacked immigration vans irrelevant to the story."

Complaint will be rejected as rules state that complainants need to get a "representative body" to lobby on their behalf. This is a hurdle deliberately placed to stop individuals challenging the corrosive effects of journalism that demonises whole communities. (See here for a particularly disturbing example of demonising reporting from the Mail. Asked four local Muslim orgs if one of them could raise complaint on BFTF's behalf anyway. At the time of writing the article had been shared over 1000 times. The article was supported by advertising from Tesco, Barclays, Lloys, Weightwatchers, NEXT and No7.

Update Sep 2015
After some to-ing and fro-ing, received this response from IPSO, rejecting the complaint :

"...You said that the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy). The terms of Clause 1 are designed to ensure that the press takes care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. You did not specify any alleged inaccuracies in the article, and your general concerns that the article did not make reference to “cross-community groups … who are actively resisting immigration raids” did not provide grounds to suggest that the article was inaccurate, misleading or otherwise distorted. We were therefore unable to consider your concerns under this Clause further.

You also said that the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination). We should make clear that IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we will need to consider the position of the party most closely involved. In this instance, the concerns you raised under this Clause related directly to the individuals who have been accused of attacking Home Office vans. Since you were not acting on behalf of these individuals with their knowledge and consent, we were unable to consider these concerns further."

2014 : The Mail on Sunday visits a Foodbank
The Mail on Sunday ran an article by Simon Murphy, Sanchez Manning and Ross Slater entitled "No ID, no checks... and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims" .

Comment on the article has been widespread, and much better written that anything BFTF could do, so please have a butchers at these articles at The Guardian, Trussell Trust(pdf) and a legal blog considering whether Ross Slater actually committed fraud

Jan 2013: Fox Made Me Do It
Randolph Linn, 52, from Indiana (USA) recently pleaded guilty to setting an Ohio Mosque on fire on Sep 20th 2012, causing $1million worth of damage. The mosque is the third largest in the US and has been in existence for 32years.

According to reports (see here and here), Linn told the judge that he had been spurred on by newspaper, radio and Fox News accounts that Muslims were killing "us" and were in control of the White House.

Reports from the trial state that Linn said that “Every day you turn on the TV, you see Muslims trying to kill Americans,” and, when asked whether he thought all Muslims are terrorists, Linn responded, “I’d say most of them are.”

The trial judge asked Linn "‘Do you know any Muslims or do you know what Islam is?’”, to which he responded ‘No, I only know what I hear on Fox News and what I hear on radio.’

US Attorney Steven M Dettelbach later said "U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio, who said, “Religious freedom is at the core of our country, and we will continue to aggressively prosecute such hate crimes whenever and wherever the evidence warrants. This was a true joint effort to seek justice for these victims.”

Sep2013 : Mail Reporter : "I don't know if that is true"

By the magic that is Twitter, BFTF has read how the Daily Mail recently published an article wih the following quote:

Trust me, you don't want to read the article, but if you feel you need confirmation of what is says, here is the link in a spirit of transparency. Anyway, the key paragraph says:

Someone once told me that executives at a certain popular search engine don’t allow wifi in their homes. I don’t know if that is true, but if it is, it tells you all you need to know about how much those who actually run the internet feel they can trust it with their children.

BFTF had no idea quality journalism was so easy. If BFTF understands correctly, journalism works like this :

i)State conspiracy theory / outlandish fact
ii) Admit you don't know if the conspiracy theory or outlandish fact has any basis in reality at all, now have you tried to find out.
iii) Continue with the article on the assumption that the conspiracy theory is true.

Dec 2012 : BFTF noticed a survey on welfare reform that was reported in The Sun (see here). The article stated that:

"...More than 2,000 people were surveyed by pollsters Populus on behalf of the Tory Party. ....When asked whether the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits, 80 per cent disagreed."

BFTF is genuinely puzzled by this, as it looks like the Coalition has actually asked people "Should the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits?" which is an outrageously leading question, not least becasue it leaves the unspoken impression in the readers mind that "unlimited" means "very large" - when actually, it means "in line with inflation"

A quick look on the internet found what seemed the origninal survey on limiting benefit rises to 1% per annum for a limited time (see here for the survery).

The Survey is actually pretty sensible (although it stangely starts at "Question 2") and it does not contain the leading question quoted in the Sun report.

The other aspect of the story that troubled BFTF was the it was not clear how long the "limited period" would last or what the legislation actually said. Reports such as this one in the Guardian talk of "A brief three-clause bill"

The Confused BFTF
Unhelpfully, the Guardian chooses not to give a link to the Bill, and BFTF cannot find it at the UK parliament website, nor at the DWP website.

So much for public involvement in the political process...

So BFTF has asked the local Conservative Party the following :
i) According to The Sun, the Government commissioned a survery by Populus which asked people "whether the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits". This appears to be a shockingly leading question, not least because "unlimited" actually means "in line with inflation". I can find no record of this question in Populus's report of the survery. Did the Government really ask this question? Or is The Sun making stuff up?

ii) I understand that the 1% rise cap is currently draft legislation ("a three clause bill" according to the Guardian) but am unable to find a link to it. Where can I read the actual proposed Bill?
Update 03Jan13 : The local party referred me to Lord Freud, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Welfare Reform), so BFTF forwarded the email on to him.

Update 16Jan13 : Received a response from the "Ministerial Correspondence Team" which refused to answer any part of question (i), ignored question (ii) but did tell me that the legislation aimed to "uprate most benefits by 1 per cent from 2013/14 and for a further two years", with excemptions for pensioners and the disabled, whose benefits will increase in line with CPI.

BFTF does rather wonder what is the point of writing a clear, specific and (hopefully) reasonable question when politicians and civil servants are going to ignore it and provide the answer to another question entirely...

Update 14Mar13 : Forgot to mention that Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood did supply BFTF with a link to the relevant legislation (rather wonderfully via the magic that is Twitter) - so you can read it yourself here.

Update Jun2013 : Received response from Lilian Greenwood MP stating that she had asked Lord Freud if the government had indeed commissioned the survey, and would get back to BFTF when she got a response.

Update Jul2013 : Received (via Lilian Greenwood) response from Steve WebbMP, Minister of State for Work and Pensions, who could "confirm that this survey was not commissioned by the Government"

Elf and Safety in the Media
Imagine you are a newspaper editor, a Rottweiler like Kelvin McKenzie or Anne Robinson perhaps. Or maybe you see yourself as someone a little more cerebral, Andrew Neil, say, or Rosie Boycott. Or maybe you want to go the whole nine yards and fancy yourself in the role of Daily Bugle Editor J Jonah Jameson from the Spiderman comics and movies.

Either way, you have a lot of power, you can set the tone of the paper, decide what kind of stories it covers – and what it omits, decide whether to support a particular cause – or to attack it.

Against this level of control, what chance do the poor readers have?

Perhaps the first step is to realise what else the papers could be covering instead of bashing minorities and devoting page after page to celebrities.

Let’s take a practical example.

A number of papers, the Daily Mail being a particular culprit, moan relentlessly about “elf and safety” as though regulations aimed at protecting people was an inherently evil thing.

Oh yeah? Well, lets have a look through the pages of three random issues of the H&S trade magazine “Health and Safety at Work” (May and Sep 2011). What we find are the following :

A story about car part manufacturer Calsonic Kansei who were fined £495,000 for an incident where a worker suffered fatal head injuries when a forklift truck reversed into him. He was due to take voluntary redundancy on the day of the accident. The company had already been warned about the poor control of it’s fork lift working procedures when a fork-lift ran over an employees ankle two years ago.

The case of Piperdam Golf and Leisure, who failed to control bacteria in their water supply – resulting in the death of a guest at the centre. The head of the Crown Office said that the company’s control measures were inadequate and that the guest would still be alive if the company had met its statutory obligations. The company were fined £120,000.

Demolition contractor Micor and their subcontractor Crane and Transport Services were fined £160,000 for an incident where a 31-tonne concrete beam fell from a low-loader and fatally crushed a worker. The HSE said that “There was no forethought or planning of how to attach a very large lump of concrete, which was an inherently unsafe load, to the back of the lorry”. Perhaps, dear reader, you will agree with me the perhaps risk assessments aren’t such a bad idea after all. . .

Dutch owned firm (Coolrec Group) who supplied recycling systems were fined £82,000 for a plant that had poor guarding, resulting in an operator getting their arm caught in rotating machinery. Emergency services took 45 minutes to free the victim but his arm could not be saved and had to be amputated below the shoulder. The sentencing judge said that whilst Coolrec was not alone in causing injuries, it had “designed a system that was dangerous and had wholly inadequate provisions for guarding”.

The story of a truck driver who was fatally electrocuted when the crane on his lorry touched overhead 11kV power lines. The HSE commented that the driver had not been provided with suitable training and supervision, particularly in terms of the risk from overhead cables. The yard manager said that he knew of the overhead cables but “did not consider them dangerous”. Commenting further, the HSE added that “proper training, simple checks and procedures could have prevented this horrific accident”. The company was fined £50,000.

An incident at Corus Steel in which poor guarding on a pipe strapping machine resulted in a worker receiving serious chest and abdominal injuries, including several broken bones. The HSE commented that, as well as the poor guarding, the company had failed to follow its written safe system of work. The company was fined £20,000.

Serco and Birse Civilis, who were contractors working on the M5, failed to inform a worker who was working in the pitch dark that there was a 12 metre vertical drop immediately behind the crash barrier. The worker hopped over the barrier, thinking that the foliage he could see was bushes (instead of the canopies of trees that it actually was) and fell to his death. The companies were fined a total of some £200,000.

A skip company allowed untrained workers to maintain the wheels and tyres of waste-moving vehicles. The worker (together with colleagues) had tried to fix a "split rim" wheel by using spot welds. These failed when the the tyre was inflated, sending the rim and flange directly into the workers face and chest. He was thrown into the air and hit a loading shovel head-first. He died from his injuries n hospital later that day. The HSE inspector commented that "There's enough compressed air in a split rim wheel of this type to send a family car 26 metres into the air". The company was fined £150,000, plus £50,000 in costs.

The cautionary tale of Greenway Environmetal, who did not think through the risks of shredding large batches of aerosol cans (which often contained flammable contents). An explosion resulted which spread over more than 10,000square metres and required 25 fire engines to bring it under control. The HSE commented that "there could easily have been fatalities". The company was fined £37,500.

Northumberland County Council were fined £21,000 for poor warnings that there were overhead power cables at depot. A lorry drove off with its crane still extended and brought down the power line. The case is an example of how workplace accidents are often caused by multiple effects because the alarm on the crane (which would have warned the driver that he was driving off with the crane still extended) had been disabled.

The case of INEOS oil refinery at Grangemouth. Important procedures on how to deal with high pressures in the pipelines were communicated by word of mouth and not documented anywhere. Inevitably, the day came when neither the control room operator nor the external technician were staff who had not been informed of what to do when the oil pressure became dangerously high. As a result the pipeline burst and sprayed highly flammable oil over adjacent pipelines. The oil could easily have ignited, resulting in a much more severe incident. The company was fined £100,000

These were not “accidents” – they were all instances of employers putting their employees in harms way. They were, essentially, acts of negligence.

Why were they not reported in the mainstream media? Why is there no Daily Mail campaign to “put an end” to these this kind of tragedy? Why is it so much more important for the national press to report poppy burners or “bogus asylum seekers” than to go after companies that show scant regard for the safety of their employees?

You can find out more about the valuable work of the HSE by visiting their website. A good place to start is probably their press centre