One of the ways that the BBC defends itself against criticism is to say that viewers have complained in ‘record numbers’ against particular aspects of programming.
It’s particularly effective because it creates a smokescreen of the Corporation’s own making and largely within its own control that generates newspaper headlines in the BBC’s favour.
And here, the BBC’s house organ, the Guardian has dutifully bitten, with a story that trumpets that there has been a ‘record number of complaints’ about the BBC coverage of recent elections because it gave too much coverage of UKIP that was too often biased in favour of its leader Nigel Farage.
The trigger has been perhaps that the Daily Mail, among others, claimed earlier this week in an editorial that BBC coverage of the recent elections had been seriously biased against UKIP.
The vehicle of the release of this supposed barrage of complaints against the BBC’s UKIP coverage was BBC’s own programme Newswatch, in which the BBC’s own political editor, Nick Robinson was ‘challenged’ to explain why so much coverage was carried.
How very cosy.
The News-watch that runs this site is actually carrying out a properly objective study of the BBC’s election coverage. It’s a massive task that will take at least two months, and will analyse line by line what was actually said about the case for EU withdrawal on eight of the leading news and current affairs programmes, including R4’s Today, World at One, PM and The World Tonight.
One thing that is already sure is that in the past, News-watch surveys have shown that BBC coverage of the withdrawal case has been seriously biased because over thousands of hours of programming, there has been no effort to explore properly the issues involved. At the same time, as the Civitas paper shows, the BBC has sought to enlist academic legitimacy to their coverage efforts, which News-watch has demonstrated are deeply flawed.
This Guardian/Newswatch exercise mentioned above is much more crude: in reality, the BBC setting up its own Aunt Sally (the fake spectre of too much UKIP coverage), with Nick Robinson riding to the rescue to knock it down.