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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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.

Big blast or small riot – it’s the hot air that counts | Media | The Observer

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Peter Preston writes an interesting column about the nature of news over on the Observer. What happens to the news when certain kinds of events (murder, muggings, riots, terrorism) become routine? We saw what happened with major earthquakes (in quick succession) in Haiti, Chile, and then China.

What happens – to quote my PhD thesis – is that events lose their eventhood. News loses its novelty (and newsworthiness).

Ah! The most difficult question. If news is essentially the unexpected, what happens when murder becomes routine? Well, in a sense we know the answer to that. Look for extended coverage of ghetto or township murders in Washington DC or Johannesburg and you look in vain. Look, indeed, for escalating coverage of terrorist strikes in Pakistan’s own press and you find that routine turns to page two after a while. Violence doesn’t guarantee huge headlines.

So now the same cloud settles over Millbank as front pages are cleared because a few dozen sort-of students moved from marching protest to window-breaking mayhem and Scotland Yard didn’t have enough boys in blue to cope. Was that – a rampage around Tory HQ, a storming of roofs – news? Of course. Everybody from David Cameron to the Met commissioner was sounding off.

via Big blast or small riot – it’s the hot air that counts | Media | The Observer.

Chile miners reporting by BBC squeezes coverage of other events | Media | The Guardian

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A memo written by the BBC’s world news editor, Jon Williams, and sent to fellow executives, says the cost of reporting the rescue will exceed £100,000.

It will also result in cuts to coverage of the Cancún climate summit, which begins in November, the Nato summit in Lisbon, and the Davos World Economic Forum.

BBC News has sent 26 people to cover the dramatic rescue of the San José miners, pushing its annual budget far beyond its agreed limit.

“The financial situation is serious”, Williams warns. “We are currently £67k beyond our agreed overspend of £500k; newsgathering’s costs for Chile will exceed £100,000.”

via Chile miners reporting by BBC squeezes coverage of other events | Media | The Guardian.

Chile is a story about journalism’s failure

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I see a story about journalism. To know that 1300 journalists have descended on this mining town to cover a worldwide story is a little disconcerting in an era of closed foreign bureaus and budget cutbacks. Many might question that thought given the intense interest in the story; my Twitter and Facebook feeds were lit up last night as the first miner descended ascended up the 2000-foot shaft. But the public doesn’t think in terms of resources when it consumes journalism; it only has what it has in front of it.

Thirteen-hundred journalists – imagine what we could do with that. Journalism organizations are pouring resources into this as if it is the Baby Jessica 1980s and ’90s, with fatter newsrooms and no Internet. Really, does every major TV news network in the U.S. need a camera crew and reporters out there? In an era of satellite feeds and citizens on the ground who can pipe in material, does the U.S. media have to parachute in on a story like this?

via Chile is a story about journalism’s failure (updated) | @JeremyLittau.

BBC criticised over Goody coverage

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In an interesting example of doublethink, The Telegraph has a story about the number of complaints received by the BBC over their “excessive” coverage of Jade Goody. They did go a bit overboard on Sunday – they claim this is because it was a slow news day. But they’ve received 69 complaints.

The Telegraph can’t resist reporting these complaints, whilst at the same time offering (in the sidebar) links to their RSS feed on Jade, video coverage of the wedding, photo coverage of the wedding, and a “Jade Goody in Pics” gallery. There’s also a box-out with six Jade Goody-related stories. This is The Telegraph, remember, not The Sun or The Mirror.