News-watch

IEA BOOK SLAMS BBC BIAS

IEA BOOK SLAMS BBC BIAS

A book published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)  about the future of the BBC contains a chapter in which research carried out by News-watch takes centre stage.

The key areas of output investigated included the daily religious/spiritual segment Thought for the Day, broadcast as part of the Today programme. News-watch analysed almost a thousand editions and found that its tone was overwhelmingly against business, economic enterprise, and capitalism.

This is the full version of the IEA press release about the book:

 

The BBC is no longer fit for purpose. Its market power – especially in terms of news provision – coupled with its compulsory funding method and its closeness to the political process is hugely problematic. Significant examples of bias undermine it further, whilst commercial competition risks rendering the BBC irrelevant.

In a new IEA report, authors call for the commercial privatisation of the BBC. The case for this is multi-faceted: technology and a changed commercial landscape have demolished the economic and practical arguments for the licence fee and the BBC’s privileged position, whilst the case for public service broadcasting is weaker than ever given increased competition through the internet.

New analysis of a number of case studies suggests the BBC exhibits relative biases in a number of areas. Though all media outlets are likely to have biases, the BBC’s is likely to be more problematic and change public opinion, given its trusted reputation, the inability for customers to withdraw payment and the fact it provides 75% of all televised news.

Problems with the BBC:

Bias by omission:

·         Voices favouring Britain’s exit from the EU have tended to be under-represented on Radio 4’s Today Programme. From March 2004 to July 2015, there were 4,275 guest speakers on EU themes. Just 3% of these were explicitly in favour of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Seven in ten of these speakers were from UKIP, and over a third were Nigel Farage alone.

·         During the official 2015 General Election campaign, 25 business speakers discussed the EU referendum on the Today Programme. Over three-quarters of these speakers saw the referendum as a worry or a threat to business, despite polling finding two thirds of businesses back the holding of a referendum.

Bias by selection:                                

·         In a sample of 976 separate editions of Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, 167 included discussions on economics, business and finance. Two thirds (65%) expressed a negative opinion on capitalism, markets and business, whilst just 8% gave any sort of positive perspective. Negative commentary outweighed positive commentary by a factor of more than eight to one.

Bias by presentation:

·         Value judgements: A BBC journalist described OBR forecasts that spending levels as a proportion of GDP would likely fall to levels last seen in the 1930s as a ‘book of doom’ and ‘utterly terrifying’.  Not only have these figures been heavily criticised, but even if they were comparable, the forecasts would see the UK government spending the same proportion of GDP as Australia.

·         Misinformation: A third (24 of 78) of stories on the BBC website between 2012 and 2015 that mentioned ‘Amazon’ and ‘tax avoidance’ conflated corporation tax paid by companies with sales revenues – which has nothing to do with the tax base for corporation tax which is profit.

·         Health warnings: Think-tanks associated with conservative and free-market analysis are much more likely to receive ‘health warnings’ on the BBC News website than think-tanks associated with more left-leaning positions.

Declining justifications for the licence fee and public service broadcasting:

·         Technological transformation means it is now straightforward to exclude non-payers from receiving television signals.

·         Multiplicity of platforms and devices means there is no longer a clear relationship between owning a television set and watching programmes, which are now available on computers, phones and tablets.

·         Televisions are now portable and used for a variety of activities. The notion of a definable tax base for the licence fee has broken down.

·         The justification behind public service broadcasting is also declining. In reality there is a wealth of channels, programming and other content. Maybe people don’t watch as much educational content as others think desirable, but this that cannot be solved by simply subsidising the creation of more such content. The main channels of public service broadcasters have seen their share of viewers nearly halve since 1991.

Bringing the BBC into the 21st Century:

·         The government should uncouple itself from the BBC and remove compulsory funding. In the era of programmes such as House of Cards, arguing that commercialisation leads to dumbing down is unconvincing. The BBC will also struggle going forwards without commercial freedoms; with just half of BskyB’s income, privatisation is needed for it to flourish on a global scale.

·         Privatisation could not eliminate biases, but could lead to the viewing public becoming more appropriately sceptical. A privatised BBC would also bear a considerable commercial cost if its reputation were impaired.

·         The BBC is fast becoming a minnow in international broadcasting, communication and entertainment world taken as a whole. If it remains nationalised it could become irrelevant. Already, the income from subscription to television broadcasters is twice the income from the licence fee received by the BBC.

·         Other options include the BBC becoming a members’ organisation such as the National Trust, with members becoming licence fee payers. Alternatively it could be set up with a large trust fund and operate with a corporate governance structure. The Guardian, for example, is one of the most successful online journalism sources while being supported by a charitable trust.

Commenting on the report, Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The BBC needs a business and ownership model more appropriate than the one designed the best part of 100 years ago. Keeping a publicly funded broadcaster, with a Charter drafted by politicians, risks seeing the BBC eclipsed by new technology in the same way that Royal Mail has been eclipsed by email.

“The ending of the licence fee and the privatisation of the BBC would permit the BBC to compete freely and aggressively with other global media businesses.”

 

The links to it are here and (BBC bias chapter ) here. Iain Martin, the editor of web news and comment service, CapX has noted that the IEA research about Thought for the Day shows a deep  anti-capitalist bias.

Kate Hoey welcomes new BBC complaints website

Kate Hoey welcomes new BBC complaints website

A new website, BBC Complaints – www.bbccomplaints.com – has been launched by News-watch.

Its purpose is to help hold the BBC to account: to ensure that, as is required by law (expressed in its Charter and Public Purposes), it is properly impartial in its coverage of news and current affairs; to fill an important gap by creating a new, independent conduit for the thousands of complaints about BBC programmes such as Today and Question Time.

There are two primary reasons why it is needed.

First, the BBC’s own complaints procedure is not fit for purpose and stacked to an unjustifiable extent against viewers and listeners. Between April 2005 and August 2015, the BBC received 2.1 million complaints from viewers and listeners.  However, only 3,335 were considered by the Editorial Complaints Unit, and 88% of these were rejected, usually on spurious grounds.

It boils down to that the Corporation is so locked in its own bubble that it cannot see the problems that taint especially its EU coverage, and also severely distort reporting of topics such as climate change and immigration.

It has constructed a hugely complex complaints procedure that is designed largely to protect the Corporation and its journalists. In the same vein, editorial guidelines have been fashioned around the false yardstick of ‘due impartiality’, a concept that allows BBC editors and executives to in interpret balance in controversial areas entirely on the Corporation’s own terms.

Under ‘due impartiality’ for example, those who oppose climate alarmism are virtually banned from the BBC airwaves because in the BBC’s own judgment – arrived at on the basis of a so-called ‘expert’ appointed by the Trustees – the case for catastrophic global climate change is proven. The Corporation has thus adapted the role of a self-appointed censor.

Second, the area where BBC bias is moist acute is in its coverage of EU affairs. News-watch has chronicled those problems for almost 17 years and its many reports – based on the highest academic principles – can be viewed on this website.

Because of this, during the build-up to the EU Referendum, News-watch has mounted an unprecedented monitoring exercise. Using the latest technology, it covers all the main news programmes and channels, ranging from Newsbeat on Radio 1 to From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4, and from BBC1’s Breakfast to Newsnight on BBC2.

BBC Complaints has been launched as a vital part of this effort. It’s impossible to keep track of everything that the BBC does, so this is a new conduit where listeners and viewers can register the examples that they hear and see.

Everything noted on the site will be carefully scrutinised and the flow of extra intelligence will enable the team at News-watch to both cross-reference and extend the reach of its own efforts.

Throughout the referendum campaign, News-watch – using the evidence gathered by this detailed monitoring – will be exerting as much pressure on the BBC as possible to improve the quality of its output and to ensure its Charter obligations.

Kate Hoey MP, the former Labour minister who supports exit from the EU, said:

‘In the ensuing referendum it has never been more important that the BBC is absolutely unbiased in its coverage. Unfortunately, in the past this has not always been the case with a form of institutionalised pro EU bias prevailing in the organisation. This new website will ensure all complaints will be publicly aired and should be welcomed by the BBC.”

Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has recently noted that, according to News-watch research, of 4,275 Today programme guest speakers on EU themes between 2004 and 2015, only three were left-leaning supporters of EU exit.

 

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?

One of the big BBC-related stories of the past week has been the appearance of Lord Hall, James Harding and David Jordan at parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee discussing the BBC’s policies in the light of the upcoming EU referendum.

Two parts of the discussion have dominated the media’s reporting of it:

The first was that “all BBC journalists” will be sent for “mandatory training” so that they become “as well-informed as possible of the issues around the workings of the institutions of the EU and its relationship to the UK”.

(So that’s John Humphrys, James Naughtie, Evan Davis, Kirsty Wark, Katya Adler, Jeremy Bowen, etc?)

The second concerned the meeting’s most heated moment – when Jacob Rees-Mogg confronted David Jordan (director of editorial policy and standards) over EU funding for the BBC – the reporting about which has been somewhat confusing (to my mind).

Mr Jordan began by replying that the BBC “doesn’t take money from the EU” and that the organisation that does take money from the EU (£35 million), Media Action, is “owned by the BBC” but “independent”.

On being pushed further (over a FoI request by The Spectator into EU funding for the BBC), however, things got murkier and Mr Jordan and Mr Rees-Mogg began to fall out:

David Jordan: There are two things you were referring to – the question that you asked last time, which was in relation to Media Action, so I answered…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Well, I wasn’t actually. Last time I was asking about EU funds broadly, not Media Action.

David Jordan: Well, it’s that £35 million figure which you quoted which relates to the Media Action…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: But you replied about Media Action when I was asking about all EU funding….

Having watched their earlier exchange again, Mr Rees-Mogg is correct. He didn’t ask about Media Action or “quote” that £35 million figure earlier. Here’s how their discussion started:

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I just want to go back to a question we came to the last time you came to the committee, on the money that the BBC receives from the EU, which I know isn’t huge in your overall budget but which is still some tens of millions. One of the standard contractual terms when the EU hands out money is that those receiving money won’t say or do anything damaging to the interests of the EU. Does the BBC agree to those standard contractual terms and will they take money from the EU between now and the referendum?

David Jordan: The BBC as a public service broadcaster doesn’t take money from the EU. The organisation to which you’re referring that take money from the EU is an organisation called Media Action and that’s an independent part of the BBC with independent trustees……..

The committee’s chairman, however, only added to the confusion here by wrongly ascribing that “quote” about the £35 million to Mr Rees-Mogg himself shortly after, so maybe Mr Jordan’s apparent confusion on that point is more understandable:

William Cash: Why do you need to receive the £30 million I think that Jacob referred to…?

The disagreements continued, however, and David Jordan, in answer to pushing on that Spectator FoI request, said that independent companies who make programmes for the BBC also receive some EU funding and that the EU also funds some other things, such as translating programmes made in English into other EU languages (as seemed to have been the case with the highly controversial pro-EU mockumentary The Great European Disaster Movie).

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Look, you are now giving me a really different answer from the one you gave before. I never mentioned Media Action. I only mentioned EU funding. You gave an answer about overseas aid and now you’re saying the BBC does receive money to help with some of its programming and does receive money to translate some of its programming and you are therefore signed up to the contractual agreements from the EU that require you not to damage its interests. Why didn’t you give the full answer the first time.

David Jordan: I gave a very full answer about Media Action and now I’m giving a very full answer about how other funds are occasionally available for other programmes to make use of…

Jacob Rees-Mogg:…which you denied in response to my first question.

William Cash then told them to calm down and moved the discussion on – which is unfortunate, I think, as many issues were still left dangling in the air over the EU money that isn’t spent on Media Action. Mr Rees-Mogg still seemed unclear about that. I’m certainly unclear about it.

And does the BBC sign up to that contractual agreement with the EU when it accepts the funding for innocuous-sounding tasks like translations and those other aspects of programming (whatever they may be exactly), apparently always involving independent companies?

And what if those independent companies only produce pro-EU programmes for the BBC (like The Great European Disaster Movie?) How would that free the BBC from charges of pro-EU bias? Does their independence’ and the apparent fact that the EU money they get goes on things like translations really get the BBC off the hook here?

Such questions need a lot more scrutiny.

Why the BBC doesn’t monitor itself for bias

One of the less-reported things about the European Scrutiny Committee’s encounter with the three top BBC bosses was that it discussed something close to our hearts: monitoring bias.

What I took away from it was that after the Wilson Report into the BBC’s (pro-) EU coverage, the BBC had pledged to put some form of monitoring into place but that, having tried doing so, has now abandoned monitoring again and won’t be re-introducing it in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Sir Bill Cash, repeatedly citing News-watch’s close monitoring of the BBC’s EU coverage, argued that the BBC ought to be carrying out such monitoring and making its finding publicly available for people to check. He wants a Hansard-style logging system, comparable to News-watch’s extensive archive of transcriptions, and, given its huge budget and sheer size, wanted to know why the BBC isn’t doing so?

The most concise statement of the BBC’s position came from David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial policy and standards:

I think we gave up the monitoring that the chairman is talking about at the time because we found it to be actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all in even deciding and defining whether we were impartial.

And I think in the context of other appearances and elections we’ve discovered the same thing. For example, if you’re covering an election how do you define somebody who’s on a particular party but it opposing something that party is doing at the time they were appearing on the radio? Are they, as it were, in that party’s column or are they in another column that tells you what they were doing? It becomes very, very confusing and doesn’t necessarily sum up the nuances and differences that exist in election campaigns in our experience.

So that was the reason I think why we gave it up.

It was also very, very expensive and time-consuming too.

And we thought that allowing editors to be essentially responsible for impartiality in their output and having an overall view which we get through a series of meetings and discussions which take place in the BBC, were a better way to ensure we achieved impartiality that through simple number-counting.

I have to say I laughed when he said that such monitoring had proved to be “actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all”. Cynically, I thought, “I bet it wasn’t – especially if it came up with the ‘wrong’ results” (a bit like the Balen report?)

I didn’t buy his example either. For me, it’s hardly rocket science to, say, note in one column that Kate Hoey is a Labour Party representative and in another column to note that she’s anti-EU. I can’t see why that would be “very, very confusing”.

Also, I don’t buy the it’s “very, very expensive and time-consuming too” argument either. If a small number of people at News-watch can monitor and transcribe every EU-related interview on major BBC programmes over many, many years then surely an organisation of the size and resources of the BBC can run something similar for its major news bulletins and flagship programmes too. It’s not that difficult. I work full-time and still managed to monitor every political interview on all the BBC’s main current affairs programmes for nine months (in 2009-10) – and at no expense whatsoever!

Also, if you simply rely on editorial judgement – on both the small and large scales (in individual programmes and at senior editorial meetings) – then many individual biases could result and multiply. In an organisation containing so many like-minded people as the BBC, those biases would doubtless head in the same direction and become self-reinforcing. Therefore, they probably won’t be spotted as biases at all – merely sensible, impartial BBC thinking. Who then would be able to point out that it isn’t being impartial after all?

Given that many people think that this kind of groupthink the problem and that, as a result, the BBC are blind to their own biases, asking us to trust the judgements of BBC editors en masse isn’t likely to reassure us….

….which is where what David Jordan derisively calls “number-crunching” comes in.

If over a year of, say, Newsnight there are 60 editions that deal with the UK-EU relationship in some way. Say 55 of those editions featured a pro-Stay guest but only 35 featured a pro-Leave guest, then number-crunching surely would surely raise a serious question about the programme’s impartiality?

If, say, 9 of those pro-Leave guests came from UKIP and the other 26 came from the Conservatives but no pro-Leave Labour or Green guests appeared then that would also surely indicate a serious bias?

Is it really beyond the ability of programme editors to count and record such figures – and to then make them publicly available?

If their figures show exceptional impartiality (45 pro-Stay, 45 pro-Leave guests), then they will surely win more people over, wouldn’t they?

What would they have to lose?

The full transcript of the committee meeting is available here.

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

As the BBC’s coverage of the general election gathers pace, the latest News-watch survey shows that reporting of European Union affairs by the Corporation continues to be deeply inadequate and biased.

In March, the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee – which had heard evidence from News-watch as well as senior figures from the BBC  – strongly attacked the BBC’s EU-related output. It said that Charter requirements to provide audiences with balanced and wide-ranging coverage of EU affairs were not being met, and that, especially, eurosceptic perspectives were not being properly reflected.

In its latest survey, independent monitoring organisation News-watch monitored four BBC programmes for an eight-week period between Monday 27 October and Saturday 21 December 2014.   The programmes were: The World at One and PM on BBC Radio 4, BBC1’s News at Ten, and BBC2’s Newsnight. This equated to approximately 131 hours of broadcasting. This analysis, based on complete analysis of a range of flagship news programmes makes the following findings:

  • Coverage of the issues surrounding withdrawal was both minimal and inadequate.
  • The vast bulk of news about Conservative handling of EU affairs was through the lens of party splits, which, it was emphasised by BBC correspondents, had been raging since Maastricht. There was disproportionate effort to cover these divisions, exaggeration of the scale of the problem and a corresponding failure to scrutinise policies; rows took precedence over informing audiences about the bread and butter issues of EU membership.
  • There was relatively little analysis of Labour policies towards the EU. Party members were afforded regular platforms to attack Conservative and Ukip policies, but their own controversial approach towards limitation of immigration or the potential threat posed by Ukip was seldom featured or analysed. Members of the party who are strongly eurosceptic occasionally were asked for comment, but their quotes were too brief to give a true indication of the debate within the party about EU membership
  • The main theme of coverage of Ukip continued to be (as has been noted in earlier News-watch reports) that both individually and as a party, it was  inept, confused and potentially both venal and racist. There was a heavy focus on its shortcomings, but very little coverage or analysis of key issues such as withdrawal and the limitations of the EU.  And the main editorial reaction to Ukip’s victory at Rochester was to ask Conservative MP Phillip Davies if he would not defect to Ukip.
  • Another problem was that, while it was frequently said that the EU opposed reform of matters such as the Free Movement of Peoples Directive – and platforms were often given to EU figures to say that – there was no editorial effort to scrutinise why such policies could not be changed or reformed.

The full report is available to read or download using the link below.

 

Photo by e-magic

Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

The work of Cardiff University’s Media department is continuing to provide comfort to BBC supporters in ‘refuting’ claims of a left-wing bias at the BBC and to be cited as ‘proof’ of a right-wing BBC bias by some left-wingers (especially on Twitter).
Cardiff’s 2012 report, ‘proving’ the BBC to be right-leaning, anti-European and anti-Islam (yes, I know!), was expertly debunked in a Civitas study by David Keighley and Andrew Jubb. David and Andrew got into the statistical nitty-gritty of the Cardiff study and found it wanting. (I provided a summary here.)
The worrying thing about that Cardiff report though – with its fatally flawed and, frankly, bizarre methodology – was that it went on to form the academic underpinning of the major BBC-funded Prebble Report into BBC impartiality, which found (by and large) that, yes, the BBC is impartial.
Statistical trashing is all very well, but the ad hominem approach seems to work better.The lead authors of the original report, part-funded by the BBC, were: Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Richard Sambrook, and Mike Berry.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen was director of the Prebble content analysis project, and worked previously for the European Commission on a report investigating how the media were reporting the idea of greater European integration and why the UK was sceptical about it. She’s also written for the far-left Red Pepper
 
Richard Sambrook was the former Head of BBC News until 2008.
Mike Berry, who acted as chief spokesman for the report, is Greg Philo’s partner-in-arms at the campaigning, far-left Glasgow Media Group. He’s not a fan of Israel – to put it mildly.
Yes, ad hom arguments are generally considered fallacious, but if these people’s methodology has been shown to be highly dubious (at best) and their findings seem to fly so insanely in the face of reality, then – given their backgrounds and beliefs – maybe there really is something to be said for the ad hom approach after all, don’t you think?
Later, the top bod at the Cardiff Media department, Justin Lewis, earned the admiration of some on the Left by using those original findings to condemn the BBC for being right-wing.Playing the man rather than the ball, I then checked ol’ Justin out and found him to be very left-wing too (the kind of professor who is openly anti-capitalism and thinks Muslims get a raw deal from the British media).Curiously, however, he exempted (not explicitly, but by not mentioning them) the BBC from that latter criticism (well, could he really pretend otherwise?) and he writes articles with titles like, A monster threatens UK broadcasting? It’s Sky, not the BBC. Hmm.
 
Why am I regurgitating all of this recent history again? Because the Cardiff profs are back.The Guardian has published their latest election ‘findings’ (repeatedly) and left-wingers on Twitter are linking to it gleefully, saying it disproves charges of left-wing bias at the BBC.
The first of those Guardian pieces found that David Cameron was granted “by far the most airtime of the party leaders in the first two weeks of the campaign” by the media as a whole, but praises the BBC specifically for focusing more on policy than their rivals.
The second of those Guardian pieces – a piece I’d urge you to read as a masterful example of studiously biased academic reporting – found that “BBC and Sky News’ election coverage featured Conservative sources speaking for longer than those from other parties” but that Channels 4 and 5 gave the Tories even more airtime. [Ed: Tory ‘Channel 4 News’? Jon Snow on Cardiff Uni’s Line One!] 
 
Even this leftist-outpouring-dressed-in-the-cloak-of-academic-‘impartiality’ was honest enough to report something that must really have stuck in their throats to have to report: They described the BBC as “an outlier”, in that the BBC gave “more time to Miliband, who made up 24.3% of time leaders were speaking on screen, compared to 21.9% of time for Cameron”.
Still, “Nigel Farage appeared in more image bites on the BBC than David Cameron”, so that’s evidence of BBC pro-UKIP bias, eh?
The Guardian pieces as a whole, however, were consistent with the spirit of the 2012 Cardiff report and Justin Lewis’s later comments. They portrayed the broadcast media (Channel 5, Channel 4, ITV, BBC) as essentially right-leaning, but – despite some criticisms – the BBC came out as the least biased of all (if still right-leaning).
And who were the Cardiff University authors of these two Guardian pieces? Former BBC head of news Richard Sambrook and his colleague Dr Stephen Cushion.
Now, Dr Cushion is new to me. Is he a Cardiff Media department with a non-BBC background – unlike Richard Sambrook?

Er, no. He was brought in by the BBC to work on two BBC Trust impartiality reviews into the reporting of post-devolution Britain and three BBC-funded reports into 24-hour news.And as for the three other Cardiff Uni people credited on those Guardian articles as helping with the latest research – Richard Thomas, Allaina Kilby and Marina Morani – well, here’s PhD student Marina (on the Cardiff Uni website).I’m going to quote the whole of this because I suspect you’ll enjoy it.I haven’t made this up. This isn’t satire. This is the real thing:

It has commonly been noted how Italy shifted in the last decades from being an emigration country to a migrants destination. The presence in the peninsula of a few million of immigrants calls for the urge of communication means that take into account the contemporary multicultural society.

In recent years a number of “intercultural media” – newspapers, magazines, radio programs, websites, online TV – have been created in order to provide alternative sources of information and new representations avoiding the use of cultural stereotypes and stigmatizations which too often affect the mainstream media language.

Among various initiatives, the study will focus on a selection of independent websites where foreign origin together with autochthonous Italians are engaged in producing and sharing information, news, video, stories, experiences, expectations.

In the first phase of the research I intend to build a comparison between the image of the immigrant population emerging in national media and the alternative social representations that these progress media aim to construct and promote.

In the second phase I will analyse the contents of the most effective online projects in their attempt to offer diverse representations on immigration issues. With regard to methodology the main methods will be critical discourse analysis and content analysis of written and audiovisual texts. An important part will be dedicated to the narrative and rhetoric multi-modal constructions.

The use of language here not only counters cultural stereotypes and generalisations but also turn them into new positive representational worlds where “the immigrant” is regarded as persona and “active subject” of the media production.

Well, I think we know where she’s coming from! (And Mike Berry, Justin Lewis & Co. would surely approve).
As for Allaina Kilby…well, here’s one for David Preiser (and it’s based on her university thesis): Jon Stewart has made us laugh at politics – and restored our sanity. (Nothing ‘incriminating’ UK-wise though so far).
And as for Richard Thomas (who writes discourses entitled From Executive Remuneration to the Living Wage: Pre and post-crisis discourses of income distribution on UK television news), well, just allow me to quote his Twitter blurb:

Richard Thomas @rich_thomas99
Writer for All Out Cricket. Doctoral researcher into income inequality, wealth and poverty in the media.

Call me a running-dog capitalist lickspittle if you like, but I’m guessing where he’s coming from too – and checking out the rest of his Twitter feed I’m sticking with that hunch.
So….
A university media department stacked with BBC insiders and leftists produces a couple of studies of BBC bias which find that the BBC is the least biased broadcaster, even though it has a right-wing bias.

And some people still think that ad hom critiques are always wrong?

This article originally appeared on Is The BBC Biased?  Many thanks to Craig for allowing us to post this here.

 

Is the BBC Biased?

Is the BBC Biased?

The answer is that on one particular subject – the coverage of EU affairs – it most definitely is.

For 15 long years, News-watch has been investigating. Our reports deploy the most robust analytical methodology and demonstrate that, for example, over the treatment of withdrawal from the EU, the Corporation’s coverage is outrageously limited and skewed.

The latest report, focusing on the European elections in May, shows that during the entire campaign on the Corporation’s most high-profile news and currents affairs programmes, no supporter of withdrawal was asked a single question about the topic.

Instead, the focus was relentlessly – to the point of persecution – on whether those who supported withdrawal (UKIP of course) were racist, incompetent or corrupt.  The latest full report can be read here.

Over most of those 15 years, the Corporation’s senior management and Trustees have disgracefully refused to engage with this research.

Instead they come up with a whole series of stonewall defences. This includes bunging loads of licence-fee cash to their media chums and former employees  in academia to write rival reports. But their methodology, as News-watch demonstrated conclusively in a Civitas paper, is lamentably poor.

In the process, it has become abundantly clear that despite their protestations, Corporation news mandarins do not have the faintest idea of how to measure their own output. Their approach relies principally on bluster and insults.

So it was with great interest that I watched the latest defence against the recent big guns Tory attack  when call me Dave and George Osborne accused the BBC of bias and exaggeration in its coverage of the Autumn statement.

The response of the BBC press office?   “We’ll undoubtedly get more criticism from across the political spectrum as the election gets closer, but we’ll keep doing our job.”

Well golly. In other words, sometime in the next six months until the General Election, the Corporation will receive another complaint from someone from the other side of the political fence.

A defence, it seems, based on a new-found capacity of serried ranks of 180 in the Press Office to foretell the future.  The sybils at Delphi would have been envious.

In fact, this argument – that because the BBC is criticised from all sides, it must be doing something right – is perhaps the oldest weapon in the Corporation’s armoury, wheeled out with wearying predictability.

News-watch records show the first use of the tactic back in summer 2000.  In response to a report, they produced two letters by listeners one attacking John Humphrys for pro-EU bias, the second for his anti-EU bias.

There was no additional commentary, but incredibly, Corporation chiefs believed both that it was an-ace-of-hearts trump card, and that it showed that Humphrys could not be biased towards both sides of the argument simultaneously – so therefore he must not be biased at all.

A moment’s reflection shows that such ‘logic’ is utter tosh.   One of the viewpoints could be correct and the other completely wrong.  There is no way of judging the credibility of the two viewpoints chosen. There might have been hundreds more letters supporting one perspective than the other, yet both are given equal weight. And one might have been based on robust fact and research, the other purely on impression.

The second defence, said by media pundits to be ‘unprecedented’, was that the BBC Press Office moved to tackle the Sun newspaper head on , issuing line-by-line rebuttals of two editorials.

The Sun December 2 leader said that, despite pledges of reform, the numbers of senior managers earning more than the Prime Minister continued to rise. The next day, there was a follow-up, this time calling for the licence fee to be scrapped, accusing BBC bosses of handing top jobs to friends of friends, and it tearing into what is said were the ‘left-wing prejudices of this Guardian-reading elite’

The BBC response was every bit as limp as its attempts at fortune-telling described above.  The principal defence – presented without a scrap of supporting evidence but as if it was  unarguable fact – was that the BBC provided ‘programmes and services which the public love’ and a claim that, ‘…at just £2.80 a week per household the BBC provides excellent value for money.’

Well that’s alright then. And as BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen (salary £327,800)says, we must not dare criticise.

On senior management pay, the defence was a classic Watergate ‘non-denial denial’ that perhaps would have made even Nixon blush. The press office said: “…senior manager numbers fell again last year from 445 to 410”. But that was not even the point the Sun had made. The specific complaint was that 91 senior managers earned more than the PM.

In response to the criticism of recruitment and left-wing bias, the BBC argued “We appoint people from a wide variety of different backgrounds – including newspapers from across the political spectrum” It was unclear from the nonsensical sentence construction (or course the BBC doesn’t appoint newspapers to its roles) whether this meant appointments were advertised across a range of newspapers or that journalists from various newspapers were subsequently appointed by the BBC.

This, of course, is an equally unsubtle variation of the two-complaints- from-different-sides prove balance argument. I have no doubt that, somewhere in the Corporation, if you dig hard enough and deep enough, in some dusty corner, there are those who have worked for the Daily Mail. But as this book by former BBC correspondent Robin Aitken brilliantly pointed out, they definitely do not cancel out the liberal-left bias.

Photo by hans s

BBC charter must not be renewed until pro-EU bias ends

BBC charter must not be renewed until pro-EU bias ends

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, initiated an hour’s debate in the House of Lords about biased BBC coverage of the EU. His main demand was that the BBC Charter is not renewed until the bias is rectified, and his key point that despite repeated assertions to the contrary the BBC simply does not cover the withdrawal perspective fairly or adequately.  The debate can be read in full here: Click here

The peers’ collective words on this vital topic have gone unreported – especially by the BBC. Lord Pearson of Rannoch referred centrally in his contribution  to a News-watch report that said that says that the BBC’s Prebble report (which gave the corporation’s EU coverage a virtual clean bill of health) was unprofessional and ‘incestuous’.

Lord Pearson asserted in conclusion:

“So I ask the Government not to renew the BBC’s charter until they are satisfied that it is capable of fulfilling it. This afternoon, I have dealt only with the BBC’s coverage of the EU. Similar criticisms could be made of its coverage of immigration and manmade climate change, at least. In conclusion, I trust that the Government will ensure that the BBC’s editorial freedom is preserved, but with that freedom must come the fulfilment of the great ideals of its charter. I beg to move.”

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter

BBC Prebble report into EU coverage ‘not worth paper it is written on’

News-watch has written a paper for Civitas, the respected think-tank,  that shows that the Prebble report into the BBC’s EU coverage ‘is not worth the paper it is written on’ and was not independent.

The Times says that the Civitas paper demonstrates  that  ‘the clean bill of health for the BBC (given for the EU coverage by Prebble) “raises serious questions” about the impartiality and competence of the BBC Trust, the oversight body that commissioned the study’.

The Civitas release about the report is here:  http://www.civitas.org.uk/press/PRprebble.html

The full report is here: http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/impartialityatthebbc.pdf

A decision by BBC Trustees to reject a complaint about the BBC’s EU coverage was a ‘farce’

A decision by BBC Trustees to reject a complaint about the BBC’s EU coverage was a ‘farce’

A decision by BBC Trustees  to reject a complaint about the BBC’s EU coverage was a ‘farce’,  leading Eurosceptic MPs Kate Hoey and Philip Hollobone have said.

The complaint – based on research by Newswatch – centred on an edition of Newsnight last January which covered David Cameron’s decision to announce a radical overhaul of EU policy to include a referendum on withdrawal.

Mr Hollobone, who has written to BBC Trustees attacking heir ruling, said: “The programme featured 17 Europhiles pitched against one person who supported withdrawal. It was blatant imbalance.

“Yet the BBC says this did not matter because this was not a major news event and they were

therefore gauging reaction to the proposal from politicians and those affected by it. That’s the sort of sleight of hand excuse that shows that the BBC complaints process is completely rotten and stacked against complainants. They make the rules, they interpret them and they kick out most of them on the most spurious reasoning.”

A succession of top BBC executives, including former DG Mark Thompson, and more recently former head of television news Roger Mosey, have admitted that BBC EU coverage has been totally biased against the withdrawal case.

Mr Hollobone added: “Our complaint showed in detail that on the day of this major development in EU-related policy, this edition of Newsnight did not properly take into account the withdrawal case, and indeed went to absurd lengths to stuff the programme full of figures who wanted to shoot down both the idea of a referendum and the case for withdrawal.

“In terms of BBC coverage it was thus par for the course, but the Trustees have now performed a farcical series of contortions to argue the programme was fair”.

He added: “The BBC complaints procedure is clearly not fit for purpose because no-one involved is genuinely independent. It exists to protect the BBC’s back rather than the proper investigation of bias. It’s time for major change”.

Kate Hoey said: “I have grave concerns about how the BBC is going to be impartial during the coming debate on our relationship with the EU and a referendum.   Chris Patten as a former EU commissioner really must prove he has left his Europhile position behind him and that he can ensure genuine impartiality”

Read the Newswatch-researched complaint here.

Photo by rockcohen