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WATCH: The BBC’s coverage of the breaking Skripal story – distortion & bias in defiance of its own charter

Below is a clip from the BBC Newsnight of March 5 2018, just hours after Sergey Skripal and his daughter had been found, apparently collapsed, on a public bench in Salisbury.

Notice how little the narrative has changed from this very early point. All the talking points are already assembled. Worth noting:

  • They call the prison Skripal was sent to in Rusia a “Gulag”, even though the Gulag system ended in the 1960s before the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is clearly emotive language designed to create the impression of Russia as being still an authoritarian and “Stalinist” state.
  • There is tacit assumption from the outset that the Russian government is somehow implicated in this incident, even though at this point there had been no claims of foul play, and no statements about how or why Skripal and his daughter had been taken ill.
  • The BBC has already – just hours into the breaking story – lined up a video clip from 2010 of Putin saying traitors will “choke” on their “30 pieces of silver.” The clip contains no suggestion Putin intends anyone to be murdered, but the context in which it is run during this segment is clearly intended to weight his words with this meaning.
  • It’s stated the Russian government were actively looking for Skripal for unspecified reasons, though no evidence for this is produced, and even though Skripal had been voluntarily released by Russian authorities eight years earlier in a prisoner-exchange. The obvious question – why would they let him go if they wanted him dead is not asked or acknowledged.
  • Even though Skripal had been recruited by MI6 and had worked for MI6 for some years no consideration is given to the possibility that MI6 – or for that matter anybody else – might have their own motives for wanting Skripal removed.
  • Three people are interviewed for this fourteen minute piece.One is self-styled “enemy” of Putin, Bill Browder, another is an ex-MI5 employee, and the third is a BBC journalist. None of them is Russian or putting forward a Russian perspective, or could even be described as neutral

Is this Newsnight piece reflective of the “balance” that is required by the BBC charter? Lt’s remind ourselves about what that means in the BBC’s own words:

Impartiality lies at the heart of public service and is the core of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences. It applies to all our output and services – television, radio, online, and in our international services and commercial magazines. We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.


  1. 0use4msm says

    It’s common parlance to talk of the likes of Kim Philby as a “Soviet spy”. But despite spying for MI6, Skripal is unanimously called a “Russian spy”, rather than a “British spy”. Talk of double standards.

  2. John Marks says

    One man’s word is no man’s word
    Justice needs that both be heard.
    – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

    America and now British authorities are surprised at the lack of traction of their desired narrative. This is largely thanks to the likes of OffGuardian and the fact that increasing numbers of the population get their news and views from the Internet. It is just one of the consequences of Einsteinian technology that is changing the world more thoroughly than the Newtonian Industrial Revolution.

    • Paul says

      Absolutely right. They winge on about the pernicious effects of social media and clearly are only too aware that their “lines” are no longer accepted by an awful lot of people. For years they have ruled the roost and if the BBC and the Guardian agreed I thought it was probably right. When they are virtually the only outlets what else can you do? Ironically perhaps I was first seriously alerted to the degree of the duplicity when on holiday in Egypt in 2008 during the Georgia crisis. The hotel gave access to CNN and BBC World and while one was reporting a dastardly Russian invasion the other was admitting there was shelling on a Russian town – although they couldn’t confirm that. That went on for 3 days before it began to emerge that the mad President had jumped before the whistle was blown and attacked Russian territory first without warning. The story was soon non existent. Then in 2014 when Poroshenko declared the War on Terror was coming to the 7 million Russian speakers of the East and began using fighter jets and launching unguided Grad missiles at cities of a million people I was frankly astonished at “my” newspaper the Guardian that far from standing up for innocent civilians dying in their thousands – ignored it as far as possible! Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on those spooky newspapers anymore.

      • eddie says

        I agree whole-heartedly with your post, but why was it reported as an attack on a Russian town? South Ossetia fought for an won its independence from Georgia more than 25 years ago. The US / Israeli trained & equipped Georgian attack, during the China Olympics, was quickly repelled by troops dispatched from Russia.

        • Paul says

          It probably wasn’t. But Russia controlled or something of the sort.

  3. Harry Stotle says

    OMG if you thought the BEEB was bad what about this pro-imperial sabre rattling from the Guardian.

    They want to open hunting season on Russia – the tone of the article is more like a military briefing than a balanced news report.
    It left me absolutely gob-smacked – I left a little barb but am not optimistic they will tolerate any dissent from those who do not buy into the Putin is guilty narrative.

  4. Mikalina says

    My twopence worth:

    Skripal’s daughter joined him in the UK in order to act out this scenario and then relocate to somewhere nice with lots of money as arranged by Steele’s security company/contact.

    Russia recently refused to vote with the Security Council at the UN to further sanction/sanction Iran for its actions in Yemen (unbelievable). Russia usually finds this kind of stand ‘unproductive’ (meaning it knows it will get sanctioned/punished itself.) Obviously, Russia believes it can now stand up to US/UK diplomatically as well as military (a Russia which is providing half the world’s wheat by the way).

    The British way of punishing, manipulating and ultimately bringing someone into line is through a mass disinformation campaign. Reputations, careers and lives are ended this way. Duterte is back in the limelight, with the UN calling for a psychological test; his crime to go up against Nestle. Didn’t Oxfam, now hammered for the sexual abuse prevalent in all organisations, write a damning report about Yemen and against Saudi interests? Seb Coe and John Bercow have both had missiles fired across their bow. What are they not doing? This media campaign is an attempt at further shaming the Russians. There must be something really big at stake to get ALL the political parties to come out from under their ‘liberal’ personas.

    Sergey Lavrov suggested that the proper channels for this issue would be contact of both countries through a legal avenue. He said that Russia would be happy to assist. It seems quite apparent that there has been no contact of this nature.

    The BBC is NOW the propaganda outlet for the Establishment. I sent my licence back last year because there was nothing left to watch. Capita gave me permission to not hold a licence for two years but will be back in touch to make further arrangements, apparently.

    So if this isn’t a ‘happening’, what is? UK Government dropping women’s safety laws; deciding not to implement Leveson II as the MSM needs all the support it can get against the fake news and ult right propaganda found online; RBS bank found to have loaded with debt and asset stripped (and ruined) small companies who had asked for advice; UK Universities mega strike; biggest child abuse enquiry in UK (really?); further NHS privatisation by the privatised trusts; trialling of voter ID for the local elections in May; the fire expert in the Grenfell investigation signed off on the safety reg for the cladding used on the tower; the Conservative Vice-Chair for Women wants a debate of lowering abortion limits…….. the list goes on as does this crazy, crazy dance.

  5. Thomas Prentice says

    All these attempted assassination ops against “Russians” seem to happen in England. Wow.

    SInce Russia / USSR has NOT been engaged in these kinds of ops perhaps since, say, Khrushchev, and SINCE THE US / ENGLAND / NATO /Israel *** HAS *** BEEN ENGAGED IN ASSASSINATION AND TORTURE AND REGIME CHANGE AND ALL SORTS OF HITLER / STALIN-STYLE MACHINATIONS AND MEDDLING IN OTHER NATIONS AFFAIRS *** AND *** WITH CHEAP REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE, one thinks that this, among others, is the product of the CIA, GCHQ, M!6, NSA, and Mossad.

    ANd collaborating corporate capitalist media.

  6. Propaganda also works inwards.
    That is we have a mask that faces out to hide what is feared or hated beneath.
    Over the outer mask is a ‘civilised’ presentation but even this is part of an inner narrative seeking reinforcement.

    Psychological defence and persistence (survival) operates a distortion of psychic-emotional communications as a ‘personal interpretation’ – that is through the personality structure of an individual – as well as the group or social reinforcement in ‘frenemy’.

    The illusion we mostly operate under is that we are in a position to see what is wrong with everyone (else).
    The seek and find what is wrong is on its deepest level the comparison with a fantasy model of the world that of course everyone fails apart from honeymoon moments. The failure of the world to fulfil us provides a basis for every kind of ‘control’ or masking of our feelings (separation trauma).

    The net result (entanglement) is a humungous store of denials under innumerable layers of defence, masking and regulations.

    When people (us) are triggered into an attack defence mode (fight or flight brain) we are effectively running in a re-enactment of past conflict. The ‘lidding’ or masking over of such conflict is narrative control operating to map out no-go areas and find its target like Putins new smart radar avoiding missile. In other words we mostly have a highly developed shield and weapon system that is largely invisible – having been developed incrementally as the masking mind of coded behaviours. Of course the deeper hate and fear leaks all the time and the lid is really a sort of dissociative exclusion zone presenting as a heroic or tragic character.

    BBC generally broadcasts a sort of tellytubby version of the world. If you are not dumbed down to an inability to think, ‘watch with Mother’! (Old children’s tv series). The nature of a demonic mother is one who never lets her child develop. This applies to more than the BBC!

    An infantile dependency is perfectly apt to our first stages of development. Regressive evasion of responsibility and growth, will act out the child in assigning power to outside authorities instead of trusting and growing its own decision making abilities. When this fantasy idol, parent or organisation fails our script, we flip to the adolescent of withdrawal of (highly conditional) communication and trust, and assign blame as the justification for our sense of grievance.

    Putin in his public presentation represents a model for adult relations and decision making. The parent, child and adolescent roles may be engaged as manipulative or marketed strategies of attempt to manipulate a personal fantasy outcome – but these all fall short of a willingness to communicate – or perhaps a trust in communication itself. Lack of self honesty breeds conflicting wishes, and coercive compartmentalisation.

    I sketch towards looking at what is here, instead of engaging in dissociative fantasy gratifications that repeatedly replicate the original conflicts of dissociation – ie a negative loop. The sacrifice of self – of truly living – to a systemic controlled identity matrix is the final regression from conscious growth and expansion, to an outsourcing of intelligence to an Artificial Intelligent robotics. To those who wield such technology, meatware will become increasing redundant – except for fantasy gratifications.

    The assignment and distribution of guilt or blame and corresponding withdrawals or penalties is already the result of having outsourced (dissociated) from a core intelligence that in fear and distrust, we deny. Making a Big Data ‘matrix’ of control is a replication of a ‘mind’ already identified in narrative subjection (control).

    The attempt to replace our true nature and life with a fake version can have only one result in succeeding. So why not look at that instead of feeding it? Everything proceeds logically and automatically from its foundation.
    A fake foundation demands fake presentation to seem to pass of as real. The images or symbols we each identify from are snapshots of a greater perfection than grasping at dead concept and trying to make it live.

    • Binra: OK, everything you say makes perfect sense – but how do we move toward an evolutionary praxis? You seem to be sketching a path to solipsism: turning away from the externally hallucinated world of Mara …in favour of what: you do not say? But the Wheel of Becoming (Bhavachakra) keeps turning: no quicker, but no slower if all the self-realised step off. How do we build extended non-related families, networks of like minds (one mind in many, or many minds in one?); communities of equals that can federate outward? You speak of the negative loop (of becoming): but I could well re-orientate your next phrase toward the return, the positive loop. Thus it becomes: the gift of self – of truly living – to a systemic controlled identity matrix is the initiating progression to conscious growth and expansion? The Bhavachakra is dialectical: we degenerate or regenerate together.

      “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…” MLK: Letter from Birmingham Jail.

      The self is social, in fact, it is an artefact of society… where society creates but is also created by self. The gift of self – of truly living – maybe the only act of conscious resistance we can make? It becomes as nothing unless we make it together?

  7. Alan says

    Unfortunately BBC reporting is indistinguishable from the BBC’s greatest success, costume drama.

  8. CF says

    Have you seen those massive yellow suits that the investigators are wearing to protect themselves from “Sarin” or whatever poisoned Skripal and his daughter? Why not call on the White Helmets, they only needed trainers, plastic gloves and primitive masks: and everything they said about “Sarin” was absolutly true!

    • This applies in many other situations that may not attract a critical eye because they seem to be medical emergencies. The psyop is a dramatic triggering of invested reaction.
      Toxicity may often be masked by vectors of infection.
      Fear is contagion, and the nocebo effect is the negative operation of the most potent effect in medical studies.

      Because belief is largely unconsciously accepted reality, the vector of manipulation has a back door via image and phrase triggers. However, this service illuminates beliefs we did not know we had – and which we may refine or release as a result of honestly looking at them.

      This freedom is not knew, but the catalyst of deceit as the primary mode of ‘communication’ is increasing exposed instead of working in the shadows.

      • Mikalina says

        I’m trying to rate this down but it will not let me.

  9. MichaelK says

    I thought the British were supposed to have a sense of humour? Perhaps not. This Russian response, which is dripping with contempt, ridicule, scorn, irony and sarcasm, isn’t some confession or stark warning to Russians not to settle in Britain, but is… fucking satire… knuckleheads at the ghastly Guardian! And don’t even get me started on Luke ‘spook’ Harding’s latest piece! Life’s too short and he’s too shitty. I can already see the title of his next turgid book looming through the chemical cloud; The Salisbury Spy’s Super Sexy Secrets Spewed!

    • Thomas Peterson says

      Remember the Guardian pretended to think Trump was in all seriousness calling for Russia to hack the US when he rhetorically said that if Russia could find the 30,000 missing emails a lot of journalists would be interested.

  10. RJ Vela says

    BBC. Bloody Bad Conspiracies. Once again lets be reminded of an important question that determines the foreign policy of the US and the UK. What is the most expensive thing you can buy on Earth? Trip to the moon? No! Its the export of War Machines. The UK is the second largest military weapons exporter after the US, together accounting for over 60% of the marketshare. “Special Relationship?” That’s where it comes from after WW2 since you know the the whole story of Churchill’s visit to Washington during the war. Next after these two is guess who? The country that defeated the Nazis, Russia with 20% and steadily growing. In order to understand the foreign policy of the west, you have to understand these figures because the elites of the military industrial complex together with the banks that manage their escrows and accounts are the ones behind all the exterted influence in the media across the west and the whole of Europe since WW2. The inly difference now, is that there’s no shame in lies and deception whatsoever. Something I can only describe as “the works of the devil”

    • milosevic says

      The country that defeated the Nazis, Russia with 20% and steadily growing.

      I expect that the populations of some countries — Serbia, Syria, and Venezuela, for example — are highly appreciative of Russian arms exports, and regard them as an important factor in human development and social welfare.

  11. rtj1211 says

    Anyone who thinks the BBC upholds its charter is living in cloud cuckoo land.

    1) Both major political parties threaten the BBC with license fee cuts if their coverage is not ‘acceptable’ i.e. presents their party better than the other party.
    2) The BBC is infested with MI5 and MI6, hence expecting sane coverage about overseas wars, obeisance to Washington and security service terrorism is a laughable naievety.
    3) The vast majority of BBC employees are self-righteous metro-leftie elitist star f***ers.

    Any analysis of wimmin/black/gay/ethnic minority coverage shows the BBC should be cited in huge numbers of depression/anger management cases for white heterosexual men born in Britain. It is impossible to take the BBC literally and remain sane, with high self esteem, if you are a white straight man.

    Forty years of ‘everything is the fault of white men’ is the same as forty years of ‘women are sexually frigid incapable drivers who whine emotionally to gain attention’ would be to women.

    Neither statement is true, but only the first is continuously plugged by the BBC.

    White straight men are as bad as Russia in the eyes of the BBC…..

    • Arthur Cadbury says

      I agree with you – but there is a moral problem for those of us who continue to pay a licence fee to support these advocates of evil. As Ken Loach once said – the BBC is a propaganda channel for the warmongering elites who shroud themselves in a cloak of righteousness and humanitarianism. What would be helpful here is if a mass movement could arise of hundreds of thousands of people who would, en-masse, refuse to pay the licence fee until the upper echelons of the BBC are inhabited by human-beings who actually give a damn about those legions of innocents who continue to suffer from the conceit and arrogance of the forces of the Western Alliance. Unfortunately, this movement is unlikely to materialise because to many people, sedated by the cocktail of false narratives forced down their throats by the mass-media, remain in a state of torpor. Meanwhile, Assad and Putin continued to be portrayed as the villains of this world by others, who if the truth be known, are cowards of the first order who lie to all (including themselves) and occupy their time with their leisurely pursuit of causing as much distress, discord and insecurity to the nations of this world who would prefer to live in a state of peaceful coexistence rather than that of these miserable geriatrics who seem bent on mutual co-annihilation. We need to de-militarise ourselves, our neighbourhoods, our society and our nation because we have now reached the stage where the alternatives are now just too horrible to contemplate.

      • To be fair there are a few social media sites encouraging folk not to pay t.v license. They also do that by educating folk as to what the law is concerning the license fee I.e you don’t have to dodge the goons knocking your door but rather telling them to get lost by simply knowing the law. It seems to be having an impact as the BBC has announced an increase in the fee and has even encouraged pensioners who are entitled to free license to donate(I kid you not) a few quid if they so wish!
        Btw, I havnt paid a tv fee ever and never will. They tried on a few occasions to put the pressure on but they were powerless to do anything when I simply closed the door in their faces without a word proffered and have thus gave up on me lol.

  12. I’ve already extensively expressed my views on other forums. Watching this piece I am reminded of L Paul Bremer lll being on hand (instead of at his desk) not three hours after 9/11: to auto-suggest that the only terrorist organisation that could have carried out the attacks was al-Qaida. Browder was due, and indeed did, appear before the Commons Select Committee investigating Fake News on the day the story broke. Ironic: but not especially conspiratorial as an isolated fact – but he does seem to have been able to advance his agenda in every paper and TV broadcast since? And another “Magnitsky Ammendment” was proposed by Thornberry: who did not want to speculate – but was prepared to sanction anyway?

    Now the Torygraph has shamelessly suggested Col Skripal was targeted for his part in “Pissgate” – a Buzzfeed dossier he contributed to through a Steele associate, Pablo Miller. Labour have been pushing the “14 suspicious deaths of Russians” – another Buzzfeed dossier. Who is running the investigation: Buzzfeed?

    Together with everything I have already commented on: I’m saying this is pure propaganda – some subtle, some not so subtle. This included the choice of guests: “respectable business man” Browder versus “flaky discredited” Annie Machon …a conspiracy theorist best known for her Dianna revelations. That’s not my appraisal: but I have no doubt that went through someone’s mind – who is more believable …the Establishment stalwart or the Establishment traitor?

    If the BBC et al are prepared to present the Establishment agenda: from the first hour to the last …then the Fourth Estate is debt facto an arm of the state. There is no seperation of authority or powers: just a monolithic state apparatus. When that apparatus is pushing its own cross-party propaganda objectives, beyond electoral consent – then we can quite rightly begin to question the nature of the state … whether it is authoritarian, an elected dictatorship of the minority, or a totalitarian democracy? As co-conspirators, whose goals are Labour (or at least Cooper, Abbott, and Thornberry) pursuing …the few, or the many?

    • rtj1211 says

      Emily Thornberry is pursuing the goals of Emily Thornberry…..

  13. Paul says

    The media hysteria falls flat when they repeat assertions that the UK will “act” against Russia if its satisfied Russia is to blame. The Government must be praying that there is no such evidence so they don’t have to do anything because there is after all virtually nothing they can do, their bolts have already been shot. Withdrawing Prince William from the World Cup isn’t really going to cut it and taking England out of the game would get a very dusty response from fans. Like Litvenko they could do nothing for 10 years and then have a senior Judge announce Yes, it was probably Putin who personally gave the order.

  14. JJA says

    It gets worse. This morning on BBC Breakfast TV, which I normally watch long enough to get the weather forecast, they had on a guy who has done a documentary about Tsar (sic) Putin that is being broadcast tonight.
    The interviewer leaned heavily on the ludicrous, politically motivated and evidence free ‘verdict’ that Putin ‘probably’ ordered the ‘murder’ of Livechenko. Then this documentary maker went on to describe Putin’s motives being all about projecting Russian power and influence on the international stage to cover up a rotten state domestically and win the support of the electorate. No mention whatsoever about how Putin has made life so much better for ordinary Russians – living standards, life expectancy, etc. Russians, like Britons and Americans, are more concerned with home, family, job, pay, pensions etc., than foreign policy. But no mention of that at the BBC. In his recent speech, the one including the videos of new defence systems, Putin not only said they were purely defensive, that Russian had no aggressiv expansionist aims, but also that having sorted defence, it was now time to improve infrastructure, quality of life, pensions etc., for ordinary people. GMO are banned in Russia, Russia is fully onboard with the one belt one road project with China.
    I wont be watching BBC tonight, but I doubt any of this will see the light in this ‘documentary’.

    • Anyone who does watch this and feels like reviewing it for us – you know where to find us!

    • ….. simply a coincidence that they have a documentary ready to go THIS week (now in fact) …includes interviews with Kasparov, Pugachev, Khordokovsky –clearly, objective, then

  15. Harry Stotle says

    “None of them is Russian or putting forward a Russian perspective, or could even be described as neutral” – Maitland says the Russian authorities were approached to comment but declined (5.50)

    Annie Machon was indeed a former member of the British intelligence community but she is also a 9/11 whistle blower, and my guess is that she is not especially popular amongst her former colleagues after making a number inconvenient disclosures about 9/11, and other western black-ops (such as attempts to take out Gaddafi)

    Having said that the footage of Putin making threats is a crude attempt by Aunty to sow in the minds of the viewer a strong link between the attack on Skripal and the sort of treatment meted out to those who betray Russia interests, while any pretence at balance flew out of the window when one of the main contributors is a self confessed Putin hater.

    The fact a nerve agent was used (even if we don’t know which one) suggests one of the intelligence services perpetrated the attack, and as we all know vested interests will make the possibility of an impartial investigation nigh on impossible.

    Unfortunately all we can look forward to is more mud slinging, and since Aunty is part of the establishment it would be naive to expect this organisation to transcend its usual role of rubber stamping the official version of any controversial story once it falls under the umbrella of ‘national security’.

  16. MichaelK says

    It’s such a sensational and flamboyant way to launch an attempt on someone’s life, isn’t it? Seemingly almost designed to create the maximum amount of outrage and media coverage imaginable, because, obviously the alleged assassins were never going to be able to keep the attack secret given the character of the methods they, allegedly, employed. And what about the ‘downside’? What about the damage done to Russian interests and its’ reputation afterwards? The negative reaction in the UK? Are we supposed to believe that no one in Russia ever thinks or does a cost/benefit analysis? If the Russians are supposed to be so good at spreading ‘propaganda’ that influences people in the West, why would they do something like this, something so transparently clumsy and ill-conceived?

    Are media, including the insufferable, Luke ‘spook’ Harding, seem to believe that the Kremlin is brazenly ‘sending a message’ to all of us; that they can do this kind of thing, this attack in broad daylight and ‘get away with it’, thereby showing that they don’t ‘play by the rules’ and can do whatever they want. This is, of course, a conspiracy theory, the kind of which are usually frowned upon in our media, only not when the Russians are involved.

    It’s all a bit sad, how crass our ‘free’ media has become, how conformist, how pack like, how dumbed-down and stupid.

    • Actually Harding believes Putin is sending a personal message to him…
      Yes I totally agree, normally conspiracy tin foil hat stuff is ridiculed by the Graun, unless of course its about Russia and then anything goes in the Pre-crime dept.

  17. Barbara McKenzie says

    The ex-MI5 agent was Annie Machon who did a sterling job calling for commonsense. As she often does. The others were dreadful.

  18. Deb says

    Wow! I like the woman in the video who is an ex M15 employee. It’s worth looking at her reactions and face while listening to Bill Browder’s ridiculous claims. See how she looks off camera in the studio she”s in. She says a lot with those looks and deserves more air time but they shut down the interview.

      • I am not entirely convinced about Machon. Despite her working in the UK training ground of black ops I.e Ireland, she has yet to reveal anything about the activities of her former paymasters in that region? Btw her former boyfriend Shayler was a major player in the Omagh bomb, and that atrocity stinks to the high heavens of a black op. I.e mi5,FBI and irish police knew a bomb was to placed in omagh thanks to their agents. Added to that the police evacuated the people towards the bomb and successfully blamed the ‘terrorists’ for the mistake. Shayler in the meantime framed known ‘dissidents’ for atrocity despite their strenuous denials. And to cap it all off successive British govts refuse to hold an inquiry into the case citing their refusal as being ‘in the interests of national security’.

  19. Neither do they touch on why he lived in the immediate vicinity of Porton Down, and what that facility is used for. Funny, that.

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