On 9 April, this was published on MailOnline:
Note the use of 'public anger' to describe a reaction they support. When the Mail and Richard Littlejohn were criticised recently over their coverage of Lucy Meadows, which led to a protest outside the Mail's offices, the paper described it not as 'public anger' but an 'orchestrated Twitterstorm'.
The Mail's journalists had searched Twitter and comments left on their own website to find people criticising the BBC for being anti-Thatcher. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but the problem is that it only tells half the story - the half the Mail wants its readers to believe. It was equally easy to find tweets and comments criticising the BBC for being too pro-Thatcher in its coverage but these were completely ignored by the Mail. The Media Blog listed a handful of examples (there were many, many more), where tweeters accused the BBC of broadcasting 'pro-Thatcher toadying', 'pro-Thatcher propaganda' and a 'pro-Thatcher diatribe'. Another said: 'Shame on you BBC...Your pro-Thatcher bias is quite disgusting.'
But readers of the Mail's article only got this:
The BBC was accused of 'disgraceful' bias yesterday over its coverage of Baroness Thatcher's death.
Angry viewers complained its news bulletins gave too great an emphasis to her critics and to controversies such as the poll tax and the miners' strike.
Twitter users accused the BBC of 'shameless' bias against the former Prime Minister. The broadcaster also faced criticism because newsreaders did not wear black ties following the announcement of her death.
The one-sidedness of the Mail's coverage was emphasised when the Guardian revealed the number of complaints the BBC had received about its coverage:
the BBC said on Wednesday it had received 268 complaints that its coverage was biased in favour of Thatcher, and 227 who said it was biased against her.
A further 271 people complained that the BBC had devoted too much airtime to the former Tory leader's death.
Arguably, the fact the BBC received similar numbers of complaints from both sides suggests its coverage might have actually got it about right.
But it is clear that more people had complained to the BBC about a 'pro-Thatcher' bias in their coverage than had complained about an 'anti-Thatcher bias'. Would Mail readers have got that impression? Not at all.
And this is not an accident. In another article today about 'anti-Thatcher bias' at the BBC (which refers to 'readers' fury' but three of the four quotes it uses come from comments on the Guido Fawkes blog) the Mail's Alasdair Glennie says:
So far, the corporation has received 766 complaints over its coverage of Lady Thatcher’s death.
But that's it - he provides no breakdown of the figures. This is deliberately partial and dishonest - to give the actual breakdown would suggest there was more 'public anger' (to use the Mail's term) about a pro-Thatcher bias in the BBC's coverage. As that does not fit the pre-determined narrative of the Mail, it's quietly ignored.
So where's the real bias here?
The Mail also got upset about BBC news presenters not wearing black ties. To illustrate their article, they used of photo of Huw Edwards wearing a bright pink tie - and also a poppy - above a caption which said: 'Huw Edwards was among those who did not wear a black tie while reporting the news for the BBC'. As James Cridland pointed out, Edwards was actually wearing a dark blue tie when reporting on Thatcher's death. As the Media Blog uncovered, the photo of him wearing the pink tie and poppy (the poppy being a bit of a clue that it wasn't a photo from this week) was actually a photo from the Mail archives...and from November 2006. The photo has since been removed, but it's worth considering why they used it in the first place.
(Cridland had a tweet of his quoted by the Mail as one of the 'critical' members of the public - Cridland said in response: 'I wasn’t outraged, just interested'.)
It's also worth noting that the Allen and Glennie article states:
other users noted that BBC presenter Mark Mardell was wearing a black tie, whereas Sky's Adam Boulton was not.
So where are the Mail articles about Sky's (in the Mail's words) lack of 'sufficient respect'?
The Mail was also up in arms that the BBC dared give airtime to speakers who were not willing to sing Thatcher's praises, and were outraged that these guests were allowed to say what they believed:
One of Thatcher's arch critics – former Labour MP Tony Benn – was one of the first invited to speak on BBC 5 Live and BBC World Service and was given free rein to criticise Lady Thatcher.
It is, of course, entirely legitimate that all views were allowed to be heard and it seems curious that the Mail seems to suggest otherwise.
Mail columnist Stephen Glover wrote that although the BBC coverage 'pleasantly surprised' him at first, as the day went on, 'the case for the prosecution was subtly gathering force'. Given he wrote a column in 2007 about the BBC 'hating' Thatcher, this conclusion may not have been a complete surprise to his readers:
Again and again we were shown the same footage of 1990 poll tax riots, and familiar pictures of police grappling with miners during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. The clear message was: This is how it was under Thatcherism. Words such as ‘divisive’, ‘polarised’ and ‘out of touch’ began to be bandied about freely by BBC journalists describing the events of the 1980s.
It seems odd to suggest that Thatcher's time in office could be fairly and honestly reported without giving significant time to the miners' strike or the poll tax riots. Glover seems to have missed that such footage also appeared on Sky News. A comment on the Media Blog from Matt said:
When the news broke, I was in the unusual position of being able to watch BBC News and Sky News simultaneously (I was in the gym). Sky ran non-stop footage of the police beating up miners and poll tax protesters, while the Beeb ran interviews with politicians and sombre-looking newscasters talking to camera.
Glover also criticises BBC journalists for 'freely bandying about' words such as 'divisive', but later in his column he writes:
I don’t deny she was a ‘divisive’ figure
You may say Margaret Thatcher was unusual in being so divisive, and so is bound to be dealt with in an unusual way.
And who was it who argued:
Her divisiveness was a mark of her boldness for which we should all be grateful.
Not a BBC journalist, not Glover, but Andrew Alexander - one of Glover's fellow Mail columnists.
So, it seems, Mail journalists are allowed to say Thatcher was 'divisive' - and indeed praise her for it - but BBC ones aren't.
It is not surprising that the Mail wishes to celebrate Thatcher's life and achievements. But to report 'public anger' with the BBC over anti-Thatcher bias without reporting on the pro-Thatcher bias complaints? To accuse the BBC of bias for not getting out black ties, when many journalists from other outlets did not either? To accuse the BBC of bias for covering the miners' strike and poll tax riots, and for giving airtime to Thatcher's political opponents, when other news outlets have done the same?
Where's the real bias here?