John Pilger's Today contribution riles Robinson and listeners

'Opinions not facts' argues BBC political editor as 'Guardian types' take over Today programme

Column LAST UPDATED AT 10:32 ON Thu 2 Jan 2014

NICK ROBINSON, the BBC's Political Editor, this morning launched a broadside at the veteran left-wing journalist John Pilger for mixing facts and opinion on Radio 4's flagship Today programme.

Robinson led a barrage of criticism from commentators and regular listeners after the programme was handed over to its latest guest editor, "rock goddess" P J Harvey.

She was responsible for the day’s agenda, which mingled issues such as the use of torture by Britain with a Thought for the Day by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a poem by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. 

According to the Daily Telegraph, scores of "Radio 4 devotees" went online to complain about the dreary songs and poems and general "left-wing tosh".

Robinson, who usually stars on Today himself but was not included this morning, clearly choked over his cornflakes at Pilger’s contribution on censorship and fired off two angry tweets. 

Pilger accused US President Barack Obama of hypocrisy for shedding a tear in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island (Obama visited in June, six months before Mandela's death) while presiding over "the cages of Guantanamo".

Pilger also attacked George W Bush and Tony Blair for spreading death and destruction into Syria after the invasion of Iraq.

Robinson tweeted: “Pilger always thought-provoking but was he really suggesting that BBC ignore Obama's Mandela grief as he is a hypocrite? Or Sunni Shia massacres in Syria as Blair & Bush's fault? Surely, John those are what we call opinions not facts?”

Joe Murphy, political editor of the London Evening Standard, tweeted: “Must be confusing for Romanians - 1st met by Keith Vaz, then find BBC R4 has gone bonkers…”

Patrick O’Flynn, political columnist of the Daily Express and a Ukip candidate, protested that "Guardian types” had taken over the Today programme: “Awoke to the strains of John Pilger's sub-Will Self polemic and apparently Rowan Williams poems are imminent. Gdn types in charge!” 

Even Michael White, veteran political commentator at The Guardian, for whom Pilger is an occasional contributor, conceded it was a “lefty” agenda. White tweeted: “Singer PJ Harvey edits R4 Today - now on. Words from lefties John Pilger & Rowan Williams, Julian Assange ahead. Lively alternative tone."

The “lively alternative tone” was guaranteed to infuriate Tory MPs who believe that the BBC is a left-wing stronghold desperately in need of reform following the Jimmy Savile affair, extravagant pay-offs and the waste of nearly £100m on a scrapped IT project.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten is the main target for the Tories' anger because he is a former Conservative Party chairman, and appears to them to be doing nothing to curb BBC excesses.

Grant Shapps, the current party chairman, told the Sunday Telegraph three months ago that the BBC could face a cut in the £145.50 annual TV licence fee or have to share it with other broadcasters unless it rebuilds public trust. He said the broadcaster must be "more transparent" and change its "culture of secrecy".

Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general forced to resign over "sexed up" Iraq dossier affair, accused Shapps of putting pressure on the corporation because it was 18 months from an election.

Either way, Today producers might want to consider giving Shapps a turn as guest editor next Christmas.  · 

Disqus - noscript

By the mid-80s, Aunty Maggie had finished off my interest in politics but I must say I'm starting to find it all interesting again these days as the chickens come clucking home. Jon Pilger - Now there's someone not afraid to challenge the stifling establishment view that's become the new unchallenged orthodoxy. If you missed it and can find it on iPlayer perhaps, it's well worth a couple of minutes listening! Needless to say he was more than a bit wayward on a couple of points and the right wing have picked those to complain about as shown by this article but it was thought provoking and the sort of genuine debate that's needed instead of the false disputes that the BBC reports on these days. Far from being left wing, the BBC is a cowed shadow these days and at least the guy put the cat among the pigeons - good on yer, Jon. It begs the question - why are the right wing so afraid?

John Pilger was an absolute disgrace today on the Today Program pedling out his cynical left wing views which were frankly insulting to many people. It was entirely correct that he received a hiding and disgraceful that the BBC allowed a previously well respected News program to become a left wing soap box. Do we also need the likes of an alleged sex attacker on the run spouting their own justification for breaching secrecy acts because in their humble opinion it's thr right thing to do regardless of the consequences on security for the rest of us - BBC: You have lost many dedicated Radio 4 followers today. Please think carefully in future !

Breath of fresh air in my opinion. Im tired of the "dumbing down" of the so-called "news" we get fed these days.Left wing/right who cares i'm interested in ISSUES. WAR is one of the most important issues today and there is ZERO discussion of these endless wars on the mainstream media - remember to follow the money to find the truth behind what is REALLY HAPPENING, war is big business for the big corporations

Absolute breath of fresh air.

Nick Robinson should know an opinion when he hears one. He peddles gossip every day.

Quite right, Jeff. A cynical and spurious affair. The lives of the people dying daily in the Middle East deserve more than being used as a stick with which to beat Blair and Bush!!

Just because it wasn't the bullshit that you are used to hearing in mainstream media?

Yup! Breath of fresh air. The BBC - Right wing Government Stooge - surely not!!

I stand by my Left Wing 'inclusive' OPINION!

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