Shoddy misportrayal by BBC Radio 4 – not for the first time.

The Radio 4 Today programme  is making a habit of attending the Game Fair and it covered quite a lot of ground, some of it quite well, this morning.

Well done to Georgia Locock for speaking up against intensive grouse shooting.  Georgia, a first-year undergraduate, was put up against 33 year-old, experienced spokesperson for shooting, and former Commonwealth Games shooter, Rachel Carrie, but she did very well.

Less acceptable was the introduction to the piece (at o7:39) which described those who object to ‘shooting’, which was described as a ‘sport’ as ‘bird lovers‘.  Fundamentally, this characterises opposition to all or some aspects of shooting as coming from a small clique of animal lovers rather than the wide range of perspectives that is actually the case.  And it lumps game shooting in with target shooting which nobody else in the world does – except of course those who are engaged in dodgy field ‘sports’ who want to hide behind the much larger number of people engaged in perfectly acceptable real sports such as target shooting.

I’m happy to be called a bird lover, but I’m also a person lover, fat bloke, Labour party member, scientist and environmentalist.  Would you call George Monbiot a bird lover? He may be, but that hardly captures his motivation for opposing driven grouse shooting does it?  And the BBC has done this before where those campaigning for an e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting were described as ‘animal rights activists’ – when I complained, that phrase was later corrected online, and we got an apology, but the snide and inaccurate description is out there for ever. Does the Countryside Alliance write these links for the BBC?

The programme then switched to the clay shoot line at the Game Fair, where no birds were targets and a bunch of people were interviewed who were clearly out having a fun time. You couldn’t get a more sympathetic, and less typical or less representative, portrayal of the shooting industry than those interviewed missing clays (as I have done for fun under similar circumstances) at the Game Fair. Those shooters weren’t asked how many birds (or fish or foxes) they had shot this year – I strongly expect the answer would have been none, and perhaps ‘And I never would’.  And no ‘bird lover’ was asked whether they objected to clay pigeon shooting – I wonder why not?

So, BBC, you set up a debate by portraying one side as emotional animal lovers, then interview some people not killing animals to illustrate the point, and then pit an experienced pro-shooting campaigner against a far less experienced anti. Very fair.



19 Replies to “Shoddy misportrayal by BBC Radio 4 – not for the first time.”

  1. The use of language is not accidental, ignorance or unconscious bias, it is quite deliberate. The blood-sport fraternity need to portray us as a bunch of airhead, incoherent snowflakes. Why? Because when you have no scientifically rigorous justification for the pursuance of your activity the primary defence strategy is to discredit your opponents as ‘weak’. It’s a tried, tested and unfortunately proven technique. When you are aided by having undue influence on the levers of the state and media then the reinforcement of your rhetoric is truly insidious.

    1. I’d quite like to learn to play the cello and join a chamber music ensemble but I have kept putting it off because I have no scientifically rigorous justification for pursuing this activity

  2. Georgia, you did really well in raising raptor persecution and wildlife crime on grouse moors during the debate, including lack of prosecutions. I didn’t find Rachel Carrie’s responses to be particularly convincing: I thought she evaded questions and her responses had no substance or scientific credibility. It was also unfair for Georgia to have to debate someone who is very experienced in PR. I see Rachel is trying to convince Georgia to join her on a grouse moor, because apparently ‘we all want the same thing’?!

    1. The shooting advocate may be a well practiced spin bowler but interestingly she said she felt shooters didn’t do well with the PR.

      Georgia is right, #WeWantWildlife and #ChangeIsComing

      All of us need to talk through social media, over lunch, to the press etc. about the illegal wildlife crimes committed in the uplands, the impact of management on water quality, lost flood alleviation opportunity etc. the deliberate fires to maintain habitat for single species (even though a few others benefit more by accident than design).

      Brexit seems to be preventing the politicians from looking at other topics of interest to the public, a skeptic might think that was useful to some in the Palace 😉

      We must all keep on reminding them that the next generation is entitled to a healthy environment not a depleted one, void of charismatic raptors and the like.

  3. BBC being true to form with, to say the least, poor research so sadly it comes as no surprise. I don’t mind being called a “bird lover” but not in this context unless the person of opposite persuasion is called a “bird killer.”
    Neither am I an animal rights activist although there is nothing wrong with that, but each one of us can be described in a whole host of ways depending on the situation take me for example- Pensioner, photographer, naturalist, retired Government scientist, wildlife enthusiast, raptor worker, bird ringer, ex chairman of NERF, friend and of course there are lots of others but the BBC need to ask to get the appropriate one for the situation.
    Georgia Locock- next generation birder, undergraduate, spokesperson , STAR.
    enough said.
    I notice incidentally that very few of the shooting lobby supporters now comment on this blog anymore, probably too many lost arguments perhaps. They seem to be reduced to using the dislike button only.

    1. “unless the person of opposite persuasion is called a “bird killer.”

      or perhaps a “bird hater”?

  4. A few years ago I took part in the RSPB VFA survey for farmers who wanted to record what birds used their farmland. It apparently helped them in Stewardship applications. A couple of farms had small family shoots, no imported birds and one farmer restricted his guns to pheasants only in case there were grey partridge on his land. He was an excellent conservationist.

    One farm had changed to shooting “clays”. The targets were highly luminous and shattered into many pieces. They were left lying on the ground and were an eyesore. I assumed they were plastic and could provide a hazard for wildlife. I was taken to task, very strongly, on a different forum, and told that the material used was always biodegradable and left to break down. The evidence seemed convincing but I would be interested to know if this is true. I also asked whether the shot used was lead but no-one answered that particular query!

    1. Years ago we ran a clay shoot. My brother buried the used clays in the wood. 20 years later the rabbits decided to dig them up. They hadn’t broken down at all. He then spent a number of weeks digging them all up and taking them to the tip. And yes it was lead shot that was used and probably still is. They still use it shooting ducks round here.

  5. I am afraid the BBC are not a patch on what they used to be say 10 or 15 years ago. They are increasingly of poor quality generally and of poor judjement. In my view they are,now days, more inaccurate or even rather biased in their reporting. So this case you describe above Mark does not surprise me . Pesnally I hope the Cliff Richard case “ takes them to the cleaners”.

  6. By reading his twitter feed, it appears that Tim Bonner/CA is equally unimpressed with the BBC over Radio 4’s Grouse moor debate albeit for different reasons! Poor old BBC….when will they please at least somebody?! 😉

    1. Jon, you are simply repeating and reinforcing the BBC’s own disingenuous line that criticism from both sides shows that it provides ‘balance’. That supposed ‘balance’ allows them , for just one example, to give parity of coverage on climate change to self interested and ignorant deniers like Lord Lawson and 97% of scientific opinion on climate.
      The BBC is a bad joke. Its combination of mediocrity and establishment bias is exposed daily in rigorous analysis by websites supporting Scottish independence. Its behaviour during the 2014 Referendum was breathtaking in its cynical manipulation of news and analysis and it is, as of today, engaged in closing down the YouTube channels of these websites, a form of censorship which will be resisted.
      You are never going to see any critical examination of environmental issues by the BBC. They take their news agenda from the overwhelmingly right wing press and their treatment of it is as trivial or as biased as their masters think fit, and their masters are the British government, who since Cameron in particular have embedded their own people in controlling positions enforcing government guidelines. You can make all the polite criticism you like, as in this blog, but you’ll get nowhere until you realise that the BBC is not listening because the BBC is your enemy.

    2. They should research their topics, ensure that statements made are accurate and can be evidenced as claimed, but that needs investigative journalism and sadly that doesn’t seem to be happening any more, despite public funding for the BBC.

      Erroneous claims should be challenged and penalties levied by some kind of watchdog, then the spin bowlers would have to be better at pitching lest they be taken to the cleaners?

      Other media platforms are available but what people need to understand is that most have their own agendas, but again a watchdog (with teeth) needs to be able to hold them to account where it hurts?

      Social media campaigns run effectively and truthfully are powerful opportunities and they do seem to cause consternation in some camps because they can’t be managed or manipulated 🙂

  7. I don’t think the BBC is biased. I do think the standard of its journalism has dropped alarmingly. I have long been a supporter of the institution, and the licence fee, but I wonder how long that can continue when they offer no more editorial intelligence than the rags. I have a complaint in about their handling of the Saddleworth fire, no response yet. But I know what their answer will be: ‘we took this story from one side,asked for a response, we took this story from the other side, asked for a response.’ Except the didn’t, and what they certainly did not do was think. It’s lazy, and so lazy there can be no reason for us to pay for it.

    This has been going the rounds: ‘My fave tutor at uni had a great journalism 101 lesson: “If someone says it’s raining & another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the f**king window and find out which is true.”’ In it’s day to day journalism, the BBC is no better at this now than any other channel.

  8. Well done to Mark for tackling this egregious misrepresentation. Of course though it’s not just the BBC, but this wilful misrepresentation of the truth has been repeated endless. This conflation of animal rights activism, and the conservation perspective is particularly egregious, because they are two entirely different types of argument. Ironically the incredible stupidity and ignorance over Badger culling, and over game shooting, has created a self-fulfilling prophecy and animal rights activists and conservationists have been bought together, even though their reasons for opposing the policies are often different.

    I’ve lost count of how many times Chris Packham has been portrayed as anti-shooting, and the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting has been characterised as being motivated by anti-shooting sentiment. Completely failing to recognise that it is a campaign against “driven” grouse shooting, and that this is not the only form of grouse shooting i.e. walking up, where there is no campaign to ban it. I can remember Chris defending shooting on one of the BBC watches some years back, highlighting their preservation of habitat. Personally I thought Chris was being a bit naive, but then again, it was unlikely to have been his personal aside as everything which goes out is carefully scripted, and okayed with the producers.

    Maybe it would help if conservationists could draw up a general declaration of what their position is, and this be agreed so it covers a broad church of conservationists, and it be widely circulated to the media. Then if this position is misrepresented, to challenge why this particular journalist has done this when the position was clear.

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