When it comes to Microsoft, is BBC news coverage biased?

First thing you have to understand is that most people believe the BBC to be the de rigeur news organisation in the world, compelled by its Charter to be unbiased politically, economically, and in fact in all areas.

But when it comes to Microsoft, the BBC does seem to have quite a few MS fanboys in its technical department. Not surprising when you read stuff like “Bumbling BBC gives away millions to Microsoft with exclusive 2 year viewer lock-in! ” which shows that someone in the BBC has crossed the line in being so wedded to their own idea of what is best they have now put themselves into the position of having to try and support their technical decision through manipulating the “bias balance” towards Microsoft. Go to any Mac forum with a UK flavour and you’ll soon see posts related to bias on behalf of the BBC in favour of Microsoft. Is it imaginary, or real?

For an example of the kind of thing I mean, look at these two reports of the recent San Diego court which has just fined Microsoft $1.5 Billion for infringing on patents for MP3 encoding and decoding technology.

The MacWorld website, not renowned for its music coverage, wrote the most informative piece, giving quite a lot of background detail and information on what happens next. The BBC website, however, really didn’t give much information out at all, with very little background and no mentions of what happens next, or why.

Considering how big an issue digital music is right now, any court case about the subject is surely a hot topic. You only have to look at the bloglists to see that it is indeed a Big Story right now – particularly the Digital Rights Management issues of restrictions against normal users.

One Blogger, Blue Magnolia, is so cross at the abuse of power the BBC is currently exhibiting they have set up an ePetition on the UK Government’s website asking for people to register their unhappiness with the way the BBC are doing things. You should drop by and sign it – it only takes a minute and will help rein in the mad Microsoft machine the BBC has become.

You should sign the petition even if you are not a Mac or Linux user, because it is the principle of BBC neutrality that is at stake here. Anyway, even Windows users are affected – if you are running Windows 95/98, Windows ME, or Windows 2000 on your computer your needs are being ignored too.

Now, maybe the BBC is being a good boy and following the government’s wishes – after all, Bill Gates did visit Tony Blair a few years ago just before a number of big decisions about which platform to use were up in the air, particularly the issue of whether Governments should use an Open Document Format or a proprietary one (it was around the time when the City of Munich announced it was moving away from Microsoft onto Linux to save money and prevent accusations of favouritism; they wanted a non-proprietary format for word processor files too).

Tony Blair is apparently a self-confessed non-expert when it comes to computers, so you can imagine him being easy to bamboozle in these matters, even if he did have some advisors around him. Since then, there have been many decisions in favour of Microsoft technologies when many of them are insecure, unreliable, or just so complex they are difficult to implement. (See Reforming the NHS and it’s National Insurance funding system for some associated information).

As usual, I’ve digressed slightly – but only because the spider’s web of intrigue crosses into many areas, background information comes from many places, and the motivation for some actions may at first appear unrelated, but are frequently causal.

I’m going to post more examples of BBC bias here, and please add any you find yourself in the comments below too. Together, we the people have a voice that cannot forever be ignored.

Isn’t blogging great?


1. One example is this story on the BBC website “News that Microsoft has been fined for violating MP3 patents belonging to Alcatel-Lucent could have widespread fallout for the industry.”

The story is a follow-up about a subject that primarily affects Microsoft and its customers, Dell and Gateway Computer, due to the patent infringements inherent in the Windows Operating System. Yet the principal photograph used to illustrate the story shows only Apple equipment, none of which has been affected by the Court case yet.

The BBC story does say that others might be affected by the ruling, but surely other users of the Microsoft Windows OS and music players that primarily play MP3 tracks would be first in line? You can see a list of those companies licenced to do so – the list of MP3 licencees.

Lower down in the story, there is a photo of some Creative MP3 players, but it’s buried. Nowhere is there a photo showing the Microsoft logo, or that of any other manufacturer. Without a picture of a wide range of products from different manufacturers it is a clear bias against Apple.


10 comments on “When it comes to Microsoft, is BBC news coverage biased?

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6230227.stm (A piece about the CES and Macworld)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6252991.stm (An article interviewing a 70+ year old man and saying that “The iPhone doesn’t impress everyone”)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/5164934.stm#views (When the BBC offered people who “had problems with their mac”, not ‘any computer’ to email in)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4828296.stm (Which heavily insinuated that Apple *had* to comment on everything, without the rivals even doing so…)

    I’ve got a load more somewhere, just need to find them again… I’ll post again in the week

  2. Thanks Ben! Nothing like a good bit of coordination using Web 2.0 technologies to help pressure the decision makers. In the old days, our letters of complaint were read but in private. With blogs no longer can issues be swept under the carpet – so spread the word, Digg the site, send more people this way!

  3. Anybody who thinks BBC is unbiased, then I would say either he is ignorant or hypocrite. Anyway I wonder which country’s media is not biased?

  4. Thanks for your opinion, saa, unlike most media the BBC has a charter which says they must remain impartial. They are funded directly by compulsory licence fees which is public money, and are unlike the normal range of state run media or commercial channels who each have their own seperate paymasters to obey, whether advertisers, shareholders, or the party in power in government; the BBC is not controlled by the UK Government, although it is of course not immune to influence.

    Perhaps you could say in which way you think the BBC is biased? This post is primarily about it’s anti-Apple bias, but I’d be happy to hear of other problems you know of.

  5. Another example:

    BBC World, Click (the BBC’s program about computing) screened Monday 26th Feb 2007, 16:30 CET, 15:30 GMT.

    During a spot about “Web 2.0” they used a panned shot of the presenter at a trade show, and the ONLY name behind his head was – guess who? Microsoft!

    In other words, the clip was basically a pan of the Microsoft name itself, from left to right, with the presenter under the name. A second, much shorter clip, did show other manufacturers’ names, including Samsung, but none of them were highlighted quite so much as the Microsoft clip.

    That’s product placement, and the BBC is supposed to be prohibited from doing that.

  6. Sorry about late reply. Well being a viewer I see BBC as biased as any other media. I give you one example, when ETA bombs in spain, they call them separatist. They do not call them terrorist. Same is with Northern Ireland conflict. But if someone fights in Kashmir he is known as terrorist. And there is war in Iraq right! so if two countries are fighting then one is known in BBC as US & British troops and others who are fighting (I talk about the local iraqis) are known as terrorists.

    Another example is when I write comments on BBC against Mullahs, or against Arab world, they do publish but when I talk against Western hypocrisy then never publish it.

    Rest type the word biased BBC in google, you will find several examples to believe that BBC is nothing but as hypocrite as any other channel, but true it is billion times better than any US or Saudiarabian channel.

  7. That isn’t quite right – the BBC calls the Iraqis insurgents, not terrorists. I agree however that they do too easily use the definitions of terrorist as used by the UK government, which comes from the US security services, which usually (for the Mid East anyway) comes from what Israel wants.

    As for doing a google, of course there is a lot of posts claiming the BBC coverage is biased. All the Republican right wingers say it is too lefty, all the left wingers say it is too fair to the Hawks. Anyone who has ever been “criticised” by the BBC, or who has just had their actions or speeches reported claims bias too.

    However, I think there is a difference in bias between news reporting and commercial favouritism though. And there, the BBC clearly favours Microsoft.

  8. Yep they do use word insurgents but when they get chance they do use word terrorist 😉

    I agree how some Americans especially who sits in their nests call BBC biased. They even hate Spiegel Online (a German Paper) as it does not most US actions.

    Again I agree news reporting and commercial favoritism are two different things and BBC has its priorities to favor Microsoft.

  9. BBC World News America on BBC World ran a story on the rising US unemployment figures this evening (Sat night 5th/6th Oct). To show an industrial setting they chose to show a picture of factory workers – packing Microsoft Vista into boxes. It’s all about product placement…

  10. Note the BBC’s haste to report on the bricking of iPhones by Apple’s software update … without so much as a mention of the fact that it isn’t Apple’s responsibility to support unlicensed 3rd party apps …

    Compared to their conspicuous failure thus far to mention Bungie parting company with Microsoft, which one might consider a fairly major piece of MS news.



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