On 20 October Andrew Bridgen, Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire, gave a speech in Parliament during an Adjournment Debate on ‘Trends in Excess Death’. In real-time, the BBC attempted to sabotage his speech by using on-screen captions to “fact-check” him. After numerous complaints, the BBC has issued an apology.
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Despite the British public sending requests to their MPs asking they attend the ‘Trends in Excess Death’ debate in Parliament, there was a dismally poor show – out of 650, only 11 Conservative MPs and 2 Labour MPs attended.
To the shame of our MPs, the 150 members of the public who attended the debate vastly outnumbered the MPs, In the video below, you can hear the members of the public cheering from the public gallery after Mr. Bridgen finished his speech. Among the public were several Health Advisory & Recovery Team (“HART”) members. HART has published their commentary on what happened before, during and after the debate HERE.
As is usual, BBC Parliament aired the debate live. But in an attempt to override the concerns Mr. Bridgen was raising, BBC “fact-checked” Mr. Bridgen’s speech in real-time by adding captions to the bottom of the screen.
As HART noted, numerous people complained to the BBC about the on-screen captions and their lack of impartiality. To those who complained, the BBC sent the following in reply:
It is normal practice for BBC Parliament to show what are known as ‘story astons’ (or captions) which put debates into context for viewers. They are not comments, but editorial context written by journalists working on the live output.
The first aston made clear to viewers that Reclaim MP Andrew Bridgen had tabled the debate. In accordance with the BBC’s guidelines on due impartiality, the remaining astons reflected (and are attributed to) the majority medical and scientific view that vaccines are safe.
On 3 November, in the Help and Feedback section of its website, BBC published a statement:
20 October 2023
We have reviewed our use of on-screen captions during an Adjournment Debate at the House of Commons called ‘Trends in Excess Deaths’. There were concerns that the captions, which outlined the NHS guidance on vaccines for Covid-19 and other diseases, showed bias against Andrew Bridgen MP who was making a speech that challenged the Government’s position on the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines. It is normal practice to provide accurate information and context to these debates on screen and in this case it was an important aspect of our coverage due to the nature of the assertions being made in relation to public health. However, we accept that there was a lack of consistency in our use of these captions and that the number posted during the speech was not proportionate, nor always relevant, which created the incorrect impression that there was an editorial approach in relation to the views expressed. We apologise for this and are reviewing the way we use captions during such proceedings.Help and Feedback, Corrections and Clarifications, The BBC’s responses to editorial, technical and corporate issues, BBC, 3 November 2023
Sharing an image of the statement above, Mr. Bridgen tweeted on Monday:
“Almost a full apology from the BBC regarding the captions added to my speech on ‘Excess Deaths’.
“The question is, ‘Will the BBC refrain from adding such captions in future?’ If not, it is surely time to #DefundTheBBC.”
The Express reported that it understands the BBC is going to face legal action after admitting that its broadcast of Andrew Bridgen’s Commons debate was biased.
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