Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Ah Yes - That Bias

Now then, why would the BBC choose to run a front page story announcing that a probe by the National Audit Office had found nothing ? Isn't that kind of 'Dog Refrains From Biting Man' ? But, no, front page it is, with the tag line as follows: "Asylum numbers 'not massaged' Asylum figures are "mostly reliable", the National Audit Office says, as a fall in applicant numbers is reported. "

So everythings rosy in the garden ? Sure seems like it - check out these opening 'graphs:

The National Audit Office says asylum figures are "in most respects reliable" after a probe into claims figures were massaged by relaxing immigration rules.
It says there is "no clear statistical evidence" that asylum was cut at the expense of other forms of migration.

But it points to "several weaknesses" in how the figures are compiled and says some statistics are "misleading".

Meanwhile, new Home Office figures show asylum claims fell by a fifth to 10,585 in the first three months of the year.

So, it's a ringing endorsement for HMG, right ? Except, other sources have a rather different take on this report.

The Home Office's official total of asylum seekers receiving welfare and accommodation funded by the taxpayer omitted about 24,000 refugees, according to a Government watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) also cast serious doubt on Government statistics on the number of asylum seekers being deported.

While auditors found the Government's asylum figures were broadly reliable, there were several aspects which were "materially misleading".

Doubtless the BBCoids will point out that the Telegraph is an avowedly right-wing publication. But that's the point - the Telegraph is an upfront, take-it-or-leave-it, Conservative rag. The Beeb on the other hand poses as a disinterested seeker after truth, yet here it is wildly spinning away an awkward report, even to ludicrous extremes - that the auditors say there's 'no clear statistical evidence' of fraud is hardly a ringing endorsement. Would you invest in a company that had a verdict like this passed on it ? Similarly, what exactly does 'mostly reliable' mean ? Harold Shipman's patients mostly got good service. Certainly, I don't recall the BBC ever calling Railtrack mostly reliable. The central thesis that the Beeb is pushing is ludicrous - in effect it claims the Government is innocent because it only fiddled some figures. To take Auntie's argument to its barely logical conclusion, Robert Maxwell was innocent since he reported the Mirror's circulation accuratly even while he was pillaging its pension fund.

If the BBC sees its future lying in providing this kind of overtly left-wing coverage then there's a case for that. What there is not a case for is that the BBC should be free to extort money from members of the public under the guise of providing news and information, while it in fact positively misleads the public on issues judged unhelpful to the Liberal cause.

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