Something rather odd happened on the BBC Today programme on Radio 4 last Wednesday. Nick Robinson, the presenter, prefaced a worthy little report about farming in Kenya by claiming that crop yields in Africa are being “cut by climate change”.
In fact, the report was not about this at all. It was about efforts being made to promote traditional African vegetables, although it ended with another gratuitous mention of how climate change was adding to “the challenge of a doubling population”.
It took the indefatigable Paul Homewood to show on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog the actual figures on African crop yields from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. These demonstrate that since 1970 those yields have in fact been hurtling steadily upwards: in Kenya itself by as much as 600-700 per cent.
The next morning, when Mr Robinson was interviewing Jon Snow, the highly opinionated presenter of Channel 4 News (who he said was well known to be “not just liberal but Left-wing”), he asked whether it wasn’t time to “let go of all those old rules” about the need for broadcasters to be “impartial” and to say what they really thought.
Snow sententiously replied that “impartiality is a very, very precious entity in our media”. “You and I,” he said, “are impartial” and “it absolutely behoves us to be impartial when we’re dealing with the issues we’re broadcasting about.” Isn’t it funny how the more blatantly biased people seem, the more convinced they are that they are seeing the world impartially? As a teenage school friend of mine used to joke: “Why can’t you look at this thing objectively, as I do?”