The BBC has just changed a headline to an already published article. What’s more, it’s altered it in a way that favours Boris Johnson.
Johnson: out and about
The PM is never far from the headlines. And as the Guardian reported, on Sunday 8 March he hit them again as he visited Worcestershire. Flooding this year has hit the county badly. So as the Guardian noted:
The prime minister arrived on the banks of the River Severn in Bewdley on Sunday afternoon, and was taken to view flood defences by Environment Agency staff.
However, some members of the public heckled Johnson in fury that he has stayed away from the affected areas until now – instead spending the half-term break in one of the government’s grace-and-favour mansions in Kent.
The BBC also reported on Johnson’s visit. But there was a problem.
Altering the news…
As ‘The Labour Leftie’ tweeted:
Can you explain why you changed the title of this story, from something originally akin to "PM receives mixed response, during visit to…", to this much more Johnson/ Tory favourable one?
"Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits flood-hit Bewdley" https://t.co/GK5iRSoTyt
— The Labour Leftie 🌹 (@TheLabourLeftie) March 9, 2020
As the WayBack Machine confirmed, the first BBC headline it had saved was this:
What’s more, another headline that people saw on search engines was:
Boris Johnson heckled as ‘traitor’ during floods visit to…
Now, as of Monday 9 March at 4pm, the headline reads:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits flood-hit Bewdley
But the BBC made a fatal error. Because the preview of the article that appears on social media had not changed:
The BBC also changed the opening of the article. Originally it said:
The prime minister has received a mixed reaction during a visit to a flood-hit town.
But the current opening sentence is now Johnson-friendly, saying:
The prime minister has said he will look at making defences more permanent as he visited a flood-hit town.
It’s hard to see any other reason for the BBC changing the above except that the original was mildly negative towards the PM. But even the headline of “mixed reception” appears balanced, so it seems ridiculous that our state broadcaster would neuter it. Then again, it’s hardly surprising given that, for example, the BBC twice edited out negative audience reactions to Johnson during the run-up to the 2019 election.
The other problem is the BBC hasn’t told readers that it’s changed the article. It’s a standard media practice to make clear if you have updated an article. Outlets like the Mirror, Daily Mail and the Sun always have an “updated” note at the top of an article with the time it changed. But not at the BBC, where readers are left none the wiser to it’s dodgy manoeuvres.
This is our state broadcaster at its worst: sneakily reframing an article while wilfully keeping readers in the dark about it. It goes well beyond the realms of impartiality. And it once again moves the BBC into subservient, propaganda-outlet territory.
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