December 27

Media mischief: BBC report on Pope: ” very close to outright lie” – Channel 4’s Christmas message


What is going on in the London media, in particular among British public broadcasters ? Not only has a British public broadcaster invited  Iranian President Ahmadinejad to give their alternative Christmas message, the BBC has mischievously put words into The Popes’ mouth, words he did not use, words which have gone around the world and caused outrage and condemnation. Not so long ago, the BBC had to apologise to The Queen for misrepresenting her (see this column, 14 July 2007).

Those involved in defending institutions, as we are, are entitled to believe that the media will report all news truthfully and objectively. This expectation applies with particular force to public broadcasters. 

Sadly, this was not our experience in nineties during the republican offensive and especially during the 1999 referendum campaign.

As the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:  “I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end.”

His conclusion is supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets.

…a Christmas message…

To say we have previously warned the British public broadcaster, Channel 4, will no doubt recall parallels with the famous, I think Irish editorial, early in the twentieth century, “ We have previously warned the Csar…”

In a column on the broadcaster, “Big Brother channel attacks Prince Charles,” 12 March 2007, we pointed out  that far too often  a  story about a member of the Royal Family goes around the world and is widely published. When it is subsequently established beyond reasonable doubt that there is not a skerrick of truth in the story, the correction is given minimal publicity and in some outlets, even ignored.

Damien Thompson, the editor in chief of Brotain’s Catholic newspaper The Catholic Herald observed the London Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve that  Channel 4's decision to invite Holocaust revisionist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its ‘alternative Christmas message’ is “more than a sick seasonal prank: it's further evidence of the Left's schoolgirl infatuation with Islamic bigots.”

 He continued: “Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, justifies her decision as follows: ‘As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.’ 

“Well, that's one way of describing a version of history in which the Jews are held responsible for most of the evil in the world.

 “The president of Iran is a Holocaust sceptic who, a couple of years ago, organised an academic conference on the subject at which a neo-Nazi produced models of a concentration camp (complete with toy train set) designed to show that Hitler's gas ovens did not exist. “His government's views on homosexuals are also robust, shall we say. Indeed, several Channel 4 executives would find themselves locked up if they followed their ‘degenerate lifestyle’ in Iran. 

“But none of that matters to Channel 4 commissioning editors, because the Christians, Jews, gays and political dissidents being persecuted in the Islamic Republic are safely out of earshot: you can't hear their cries in Crouch End.”

Christians are a persecuted minority in Iran. Can you imagine, years ago Christmas messages on a British public broadcaster from persecutors such as say, Lenin, Stalin, Mao or Hitler ?

… “ close to an outright lie”… 

 In the meantime, the news from the BBC went around the world that The Pope, Benedict XVI, had said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforests from destruction.

The fact is, he did not say that. As Damien Thompson observes, this report is  very close to being an outright lie.

But the BBC version went around the world. Whenever  it was reported in Australia, the report also contained  indignant reactions. No doubt that happened in every other country.

Even an Australian Catholic Bishop was taken in. The Auxililary Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Pat Power,  expressed concern that Pope Benedict's recent comments on homosexuality have hurt people and damaged the church's standing.

Appparenlty relying only on the BBC’s claim about what the Pope said, Bishop Power declared: "When I heard that message of the Pope I said, 'What's that saying to those people that I love and share a great deal with?'" 


Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the Curia in Rome on 22 December was in Italian.  An English translation by  Bishop Michael Campbell can be found on the official website of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The relevant extract follows. It appears to contain traditional Catholic teaching presented in a calm and restrained tone.

“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic.

“It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God.

“That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator.

“Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him.

"But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator.

“The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition.

“The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind.

“This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God.

“Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.”

The BBC Director General Mark Thompson should apologise, and not at the end of a news bulletin. The Catholic Church should demand the BBC put this right. 


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