Today the BBC news twice regurgitated obviously disingenuous government statistics on the criminal barristers strike without comment or context. Moreover, upon inspection these “mistakes” seem difficult to reconcile with either neutrality or journalistic integrity.
“The government says that at around 2billion per year the UK has one of the highest legal aid bills in the world” ran the BBC 6 o’clock news today solemnly.
Of course it bloody does does! The UK is one of the biggest economies in the world, it would be a miracle if it wasn’t near the top of the list for total legal fees. Without a direct comparison to a similarly wealthy countries’ costs, specifically average salaries or the average cost of prosecuting similar cases, the statistic is meaningless except in its propaganda value. The journalists that work on the BBC news must surely know this.
Moreover, when the BBC finally gave figures pertaining to the yearly rate, they once again failed in the government’s favour. The 7am news cited the barristers average income at £36,000 and then the government spokesperson gave a figure of £86,000. That is a gap of £50,000, yet this difference was left unexplained and unexamined. But the £86k figure ultimately stood uncontested because the government spokesperson was the only interviewee, no spokesperson for the barrister was (I think it is fair to presume) invited.
Later, on the 6pm news the government cited a figure of 1,200 barristers making 100k from legal fees, and contrasted it with the barristers argument that 50% of barristers earn 27k or less. Again the BBC offers no context and analysis of these figures. Leaving it up to the viewer to make sense of the government’s smokes and mirrors.
The obvious question that figure begs is: What proportion of the total number of barristers does 1,200 constitute? Turns out the answer is 10%, which incidentally is almost exactly the number who are QCs (the highest rank of criminal barrister), a group that usually double or triple the rest. It is not difficult to see that the government has cherry picked the highest paid to slander the rest. Thus the government’s statistic is extremely misleading and its logic obviously faulty: it is basically analogous to claiming that because bosses earn a lot of money, all workers deserve a pay cut. 1 minute on Google to find this out, why couldn’t the BBC do it?
Now, I think it is a fair assumption that most people working at the BBC are a) smart b) qualified and c) experienced journalists. Is it it possible to strike this reporting down to incompetence? Is refusing to contest misinformation what we call balance? Or is it a systematic and calculated lack of analysis? I think there is only one answer.
Note: I am an Englishman and a teacher, living in Norway, I have no affiliation to the striking barristers. Nonetheless I would be lying if I did not have an agenda: I believe that showing solidarity with all those employed by the state when they are being scapegoated by the Tories is essential if we are going to be able to maintain decent living standards in the UK.