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7 Sep, 2018 16:37

'Ian Blackford, Bob Seely and a BBC reporter walk into a bar,' or British lessons in journalism

'Ian Blackford, Bob Seely and a BBC reporter walk into a bar,' or British lessons in journalism

Brought to you by the folks who spent decades telling us how to be proper journalists – just like them! – and then wringing their hands when we finally said “Nah.” (This tale shows precisely why).

If you're a BBC reporter, this is apparently how you approach a story about RT (a critical one, of course):

Step 1: Reach out for a comment, so nobody can accuse you of bias.

Step 2: Get every single question answered by an RT representative.

Step 3: Publish an article about RT without including a single word of RT's reply.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done in good old England. Or at least how it was done by one Tom Ingham of the BBC, who reached out for an RT comment on a story. It looks like it's this one (Salisbury Novichok poisoning: SNP MP calls for action against Russia), in which SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford finally gets his feelings about RT off his chest.

In the interest of balance, objectivity, impartiality and all other wonderful ideals that the British media and politicians long commanded us to emulate, here are the complete answers provided to the BBC reporter in a timely manner by yours truly:

BBC: To what extent do you agree with the assertion that RT is a vehicle* for the Russian state?

RT: It is well-known that the Russian state prefers to drive the Aurus Senat Kortezh limousine.

BBC: What is your reaction to his comment suggesting that people appearing on RT programs are somehow tarnished by association?

RT: That we have come to expect far more originality** from the great authors and orators of the British Isles.

BBC: In what way are you concerned that these comments might put people off from appearing on RT programs?

RT: We expect them to have the same effect as Boris Johnson's appeals to boycott RT, just as his father came on our channel to promote his book.

BBC: In what way are you concerned that Mr Blackford labeled RT a vehicle for the state on the day that Theresa May asserted that Russia was behind the Salisbury poisonings? To what extent is that connection a concern?

RT: Only in a sense that this tendency to desperately connect entirely unrelated events, perfectly exemplified by this very question, does not bode well for the future of the mainstream media.

BBC: Even if people don't believe these claims, what do you think could be the effect on the image of RT and its effectiveness to operate?

RT: To the great disappointment of the establishment circles, the relentless threats and attacks on RT failed to dissuade our smart, loyal, inquisitive audience from turning to RT for news and perspectives that the mainstream media has long failed to provide.

*Although the BBC reporter assured me that I would be responding to a direct quote, somehow the wording of that quote changed in the final copy, in which "vehicle" was replaced by "tool." This offers its own possibilities, but I will save those for the next inquiry.

**Also this week, another UK politician, this time MP Bob Seely, offered his "10 steps to defend our country against the aggression and subversion of Putin's Russia," which of course included his recommendation on how to punish RT for the offense of daring to 1) be Russian and 2) have an independent editorial voice. For those interested in our thoughts about his views on RT, please refer to the above.

In his advice column, Mr Seely was particularly emphatic about the need for RT to be held to the rigorous standards of British journalism; among those standards he specifically cited "rights of reply." I wonder if he thinks same standards should apply to the BBC as well.

PS: SNP MP Angus MacNeil says he 'will continue to appear on RT.' 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.