How the BBC leans to the right

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In a fascinating extract from a forthcoming book called Is the BBC in Crisis? Professor Justin Lewis details some of the ways in which the BBC fails in its mission to be impartial.

(I’ve long believed that the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ should be towards the truth, so that when the facts have a left-wing or liberal bias, there should be no need to wheel out the likes of Nigel Lawson to rebut the findings of 97% of climate scientists.)

Anyway, regular listeners/viewers will hardly be surprised to learn that the BBC has a right-wing bias – especially under a Conservative government, because of worries about the Conservatives (who are in power but have no mandate) eviscerating the BBC through the licence fee settlement.

Recent evidence from the most recent BBC Trust commissioned impartiality review appears to support this view. The research, by my colleagues at Cardiff, compared BBC news when Labour were in power (in 2007) with coverage under a Conservative-led coalition (in 2012). The study found, by a series of measures, that ‘Conservative dominance in 2012’ of BBC news was ‘by a notably larger margin than Labour dominance in 2007’ (Wahl-Jorgenson et al 2013: 5).

Beyond the main parties, the study suggested that the BBC is more likely than either ITV or Channel 4 to use sources from the right, such US Republicans or Ukip, and less likely to use sources from the left, such as US Democrats and the Green Party. But it is the imbalance between Conservative and Labour – by margins of three to one for party leaders and four to one for ministers/shadow ministers – that was most striking, especially since the research indicated that this rightward shift was a strictly BBC phenomenon.

The other interesting aspect of the article is its focus on the way the news agenda (news values) of the BBC also has a right-wing bias. They spend far more time discussing issues of interest to the right (e.g. immigration) than they do discussing issues of interest to the left (e.g. inequality).

I noticed during Party Conference season that the BBC spent much more time reporting the UKiP conference than they did the Green Party one, which was happening at the same time. What’s tragic about this, of course, is that ‘blind testing’ tends to show that twice as many people support Green policies as they do the foam-flecked ravings of the UKiPers. In other words, the BBC should be spending twice as much time covering issues if interest to Greens (climate change, inequality) than they do dealing with UKiP issues (immigration, immigration).

Read more: Extract: ‘How the BBC leans to the right’ – Opinion – Media – The Independent.

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Staged sequences makes Hidden Kingdoms hard to watch | Television & radio | theguardian.com

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Green room, green screen.
Green room, green screen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heard a discussion about this on Radio 4’s The Media Show this week (download the podcast). It seems outrageous to me that the BBC are “dramatising” factual programmes for “narrative or emotional impact” – without shame. That they were almost certainly doing this kind of thing in the past, goes without saying. What gets to me here is the corrupt morality. In the past, they’d have tried to keep this kind of thing secret, because of shame and embarrassment. Now they don’t appear to know what shame and embarrassment is.

It’s cheap TV, it’s dumbed-down TV, and it’s TV aimed not at the core audience for wildlife documentaries, but at that other, nebulous, “broader” audience, of people who aren’t interested in wildlife documentaries – unless they have drama, narrative, and emotional impact. Pandering, in other words. And you know what? I bet they still won’t watch.

Viewers are warned in advance, though, that some sequences have been dramatised for narrative or emotional impact, with some animals filmed in captivity or in the studio. Publicity material relating to the series further explains that, in order to present the perspective of the tiny protagonist in each scene, \”stages\” or tableaux have sometimes been digitally created around the genuine footage of the animals and insects.

This attempt at being transparent about the process was clearly intended to pre-empt a repeat of controversies about \”faked\” wildlife footage in previous series, even including some by Attenborough. However, admitting to heavy drinking does not prevent people concluding that you are an alcoholic and the controversy has simply happened anyway, with the spin that the BBC has \”confessed\” to fakery.

via BBC telling us it staged sequences makes Hidden Kingdoms hard to watch | Television & radio | theguardian.com.

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The blog is dead, long live the blog » Nieman Journalism Lab

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Here’s another interesting post, from prominent blogger Jason Kottke, who is arguing that Peak Blog has passed, and 2014 is the year we’ll notice.

My own philosophy of blogging (with my main, personal blog, not this one) has been to do it as long as it interested me, and not to worry about whether anyone was reading it. Apart from anything else, I sometimes look back on things I wrote to see what I was thinking about, all those months ago. But Kottke is probably right that things are done differently these days.

The design metaphor at the heart of the blog format is on the wane as well. In a piece at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal says that the reverse-chronological stream (a.k.a. The Stream, a.k.a. The River of News) is on its way out. Snapchat, with its ephemeral media, is an obvious non-stream app; Madrigal calls it “a passing fog.” Facebook’s News Feed is increasingly organized by importance, not chronology. Pinterest, Digg, and an increasing number of other sites use grid layouts to present information. Twitter is coming to resemble radio news as media outlets repost the same stories throughout the day, ICYMI (in case you missed it). Reddit orders stories by score.

via The blog is dead, long live the blog » Nieman Journalism Lab.

Soap operas: has the bubble burst? | Television & radio | The Guardian

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Twenty-five years ago, soap operas were delivery systems for melodrama, cliffhangers, women’s issues, comedy and social critique, and, best of all, white-knuckle rides on the narrative express. Now? “Soaps are now just seen as something to fill the schedules,” says Phil Redmond, the TV producer who brought us Brookside and Hollyoaks. “There’s been a loss of vision.”

In the early 80s, the most popular soaps – Crossroads and Coronation Street – lost the plot: they had nothing to say about a Britain mired in Thatcher’s austerity years. Then, Brookside (1982-2003), set in a Liverpool suburb, and later EastEnders (1985-present), set in a fictionalised east London, gave the British soap a new lease of life by returning the genre to its manifest destiny: right down to the specially built cul-de-sac in suburban Merseyside and the faux-East End Albert Square in Hertfordshire, the new soaps were simulacra that told us about how we really lived. Brookside was, at the time, especially radical since it junked that staple notion of the British soap, that the action must revolve around the local pub. Instead, it depicted an all-too-recognisable, fragmented owner-occupying non-society of the kind for which the then prime minister proselytised.

via Soap operas: has the bubble burst? | Television & radio | The Guardian.

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier | Media | The Guardian

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News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

via News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier | Media | The Guardian.

Ten things you won’t hear about while the press navel-gazes about Leveson and regulation

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The New Statesman nails it in an article that questions what happens to news when the media starts to obsess about itself. On the day when The BBC obsessed about moving house and the rest of the media obsessed about press regulation, here are the stories we could have been hearing about. News values in action:

1. The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished. The so-called “Poundland” ruling would potentially entitle thousands of people to financial rebates after the court of appeal declared that almost all of the government’s “work-for-your-benefit” employment schemes were unlawful. The legislation is will come before the Commons tomorrow as the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill.

2. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the Steubenville high school football players, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old after a party in August last year. It’s become a national story in the US – a CNN reporter was accused of being a “rape apologist”.

Read the rest: Ten things you won’t hear about while the press navel-gazes about Leveson and regulation.

Jason Russell: Kony2012 and the fight for truth – The Observer

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He’d never experienced any form of mental illness. Or at least, he hadn’t until the world wide web turned its hell dogs upon him. Could anyone have withstood the pressure that Russell was under? “My doctors say there are very few people who have been that unknown, and then that famous and who are then ripped to shreds.”

When I ask him if he’s processed what happened to him, and what effect it’s had on his life, he says: “I don’t know if I have processed it. I still … there are days when I think, ‘That was a total failure.’ That it was the worst thing that could have happened. That I let everybody down. And there are others when I think we did what we wanted to do. We set out to make Joseph Kony known. And now he is. So I can’t… But the problem is that my breakdown put such a blanket of fear and distrust and shame over everything. That’s something I deal with every day.”

Or as Vice magazine reported it: “Those who live by slick viral videos can die by them too.”

via Jason Russell: Kony2012 and the fight for truth | World news | The Observer.