If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday 30 January 2012

BBC Spin The Stats - Again

I wrote recently about a game the whole family can play, in which the BBC's output makes perfect sense: just mentally title every programme "Why the government is consistently wrong on everything". I mentioned Huw Edwards (the newsreader) as a particularly useful player.

Tonight, I watched the 5 o'clock news where the BBC was headlining the 'decline' of '9%' in 'applications' to 'Universities'. It was fascinating. Here's a précis, and it's from memory, so don't quote me on the figures, but the direction of the conversation is right.

HE: Disaster as UK University applications are down by almost 10% on last year. Everyone's blaming the Coalition's imposition of massive rises in tuition fees.

Reeta Chakrabarti (Education Correspondent): Actually, it's not as bad as that. The 9% is only for England. Scotland and Wales are more like 1-2%.

HE: Aha! So our headline about a catastrophic UK-wide decline is a bit inaccurate, yes?

RC: Yes, it is a bit. And if you strip out mature students, the English figure is only about 2%, too.

HE: Let me bring in Nicola Dandridge from Universities UK. So, Nicola, pretty bad, but perhaps not as bad as all that?

ND: Yes, not as bad as we feared. And of course mature students tend to apply later than 18-year-olds, so the picture isn't final yet by a long way.

HE: So, to sum up, students are being put off in unprecedented numbers from applying, by the tuition fees issue. And yet the Coalition have been saying for months that no-one need be put off by the fees, as the loans need not be repaid until they are earning at least £21,000. The Coalition have had every opportunity to make this clear, but no-one seems to be listening. How can the Coalition have got it so badly wrong?

And on the BBC website, as of 23:00 tonight:


  1. Maybe they've been taking lessons on the derivation of alarming statistics from unalarming facts, from their Global Warming department.

  2. ha ha don't get too excited Richard. The BBC cover the left and Murdoch covers the right in the fake democracy that we vote for.
    Nothing ever changes in anything that matters and it's full agreement amongst our leaders - bailing out the banks, perpetual war, more surveillance etc. Constantly onwards and downwards with left and right claiming to change things but backslapping each other after each political spat for the benefit of the sheep.
    Shame on us for falling for it right enough

  3. The £21k thing is a shill.

    If you forget to inform these wankers every year they claim you "Haven't responded" to them and then they chase you for the amount.

    Even if you do respond and its in a file somewhere at the Student Loans Company, and you are on say half the amount of earnings to be required to pay it back, they will still sell it to a debt collector.

    I phoned them to inform them I had sent away said paychecks etc for the last two years the prick on the phone said "the Student Loans Company does not make mistakes.."


    They have Papal infallibility then?

    So every year I get a new declaration and a new debt letter, with interest, charges, threats of legal fees, debt collectors etc, I just fucking send the form back and ignore the cunts for another year.

  4. Joe, even the global warming output isn't as blatantly wonky as this was. He stated a (contentious) case, had it refuted by two different people, and then went on to re-state his original position. It was as if Chakrabarti and Dandridge had never spoken.

    george, agreed.

    Anonymous, you sound to be speaking from bitter experience. Do you have to contact them every year with a statement of earnings? If so, it's only like filling in your tax form as many people have to. Whatever you think of student loans (and I don't think much of them), a deal is a deal, and if those are the terms they don't sound too onerous. Wait until you get your tax 'investigated'. HMRC have official Papal infallibility, and their default position is that you are a criminal trying to cheat them. And they don't like to be disappointed. It's less fun than wiping your arse with barbed wire.

  5. Yes Richard, I have had dealings will all the main Governmental footpads, and they all are "infallible" in their own opinion, of course they are less than that when you try and get some of your hard-earned back from the bastards.

  6. Don't know which experience is more representative, Anon., but Mrs. E did her Foundation Degree (as a mature student, obviously...) a few years back and all we ever have to do about her student loan is confirm on request that she hasn't earned over the threshold. I think the requests are annual, but they haven't been intrusive and we've never had to offer any detailed proof of earnings to back up the statement. Perhaps you've just been unlucky?

    In other stat-spinning yesterday (not government-based, but equally spurious), BBC news were pleased to announce that it is now official: women are better at parking than men. The caveats that they neglected to mention would appear to include: only when parking in an NCP carpark and being measured using a set of arbitrary scores including eg "pre-parking pose". It's just one example of why my mental programme retitling is more like "Why the BBC is consistently wrong on everything, ever".

  7. From what I could see, the conclusion was: if women are given a bigger space and unlimited time, they will eventually park more tidily than men, as they are more conscientious. Prehistoric sexism aside, I would argue the reverse from observation. Many women are excellent parkers (Anna is one), but more women than men (that I have seen) are happy to leave the car at 45deg to the line with a wheel in the next space along, thus taking two spaces. If a man does that, it's selfish. If a woman does it, it's because she doesn't see the need for all this anal fixation with lines and stuff.

    Anna had a real tongue-lashing from a lady in M&S car park a few months ago. The lady said that Anna had parked too close and hadn't left enough room for her to get out. Anna reminded her that she had parked there long after Anna had parked, but the lady didn't see the logic.

  8. Indeed, that was exactly the sort of accurate, nuanced interpretation of the results that was sadly absent from the sensationalist headline announcement. It wasn't great research to begin with - a classic case of "Under certain circumstances, especially if the measures are skewed to give the desired answer...". Might not have paid too much attention, but it did immediately follow on from the blatantly made-up stuff about HE figures.

    M&S lady sounds like a real charmer - you could almost admire that utter sense of misguided self-righteousness...

  9. Yes, apparently (I wasn't there) she managed some impressively twisted thinking. "You parked slightly to one side of the centre of the space. I parked right on the edge of mine, and there isn't much room to get out. Therefore you should have parked differently five minutes ago, in anticipation of where I would be parking."



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