Friday 23 August 2013

Conservative Bias at the BBC

The BBC is beholden to an agenda that is anti-British, pro-union, and left-wing. Or so the argument goes. Thing is, there's no evidence for it. Back in November, I had a bit of fun asking if the BBC's Question Time was biased. This little study, based on the political allegiances of guests appearing on the programme between December 2008 and November 2012 found there was bias - the number of rightwing panelists outweighed guests from the left. Now a group of academics at Cardiff University have performed a wider content analysis. Funded by the BBC itself, it wanted to know how impartial its reporting really was.

Guess what? This report based on actual, real evidence and not ideas plucked from the hot air of a rightwing dinner party, found there was no leftwing bias. Yet again, coverage was tilted to the right.

For example,

Among political sources, Labour and Conservatives dominate coverage accounting for 86% of source appearances in 2007 and 79.7% in 2012. Our data also show that Conservatives get more airtime than Labour. Bearing in mind that incumbents always receive more coverage than opposition politicians, the ratio was much more pronounced when the Conservatives were in power in 2012.

In strand one (reporting of immigration, the EU and religion), Gordon Brown outnumbered David Cameron in appearances by a ratio of less than two to one (47 vs 26) in 2007. In 2012 David Cameron outnumbered Ed Milliband by a factor of nearly four to one (53 vs 15). Labour cabinet members and ministers outnumbered Conservative shadow cabinet and ministers by approximately two to one (90 vs 46) in 2007; in 2012, Conservative cabinet members and ministers outnumbered their Labour counterparts by more than four to one (67 to 15).

In strand two (reporting of all topics) Conservative politicians were featured more than 50% more often than Labour ones (24 vs 15) across the two time periods on the BBC News at Six. So the evidence is clear that BBC does not lean to the left it actually provides more space for Conservative voices.
The observations made in my small examination of Question Time appearances are borne out by the systematic study of BBC output.

Yes, sure, a foam flecked Tory will be able to find reports that are critical of the government's record, or an occasional item on the EU in which it is not denounced as the USSR's second coming. But facts are stubborn things. The numbers show the BBC is a big C Conservative institution.


@RWHwriter said...

I look forward to reading about this in the Telegraph and the Mail...backs up what we always knew, but it's incredible the right wing press and the Centre for Policy Studies claim otherwise.

Phil said...

They will always claim otherwise not because they're stupid (even though they are) but their outlook on the world, conditioned by the privilege they defend just cannot acknowledge anything that contradicts it. The cast iron scientific underpinnings of climate change, or the reams of testimony about the iniquity of social security reform is not so much evidence to them but leftist propaganda.

Bridget McKenzie said...

If you take a view that the 'Left Wing' as represented by the Labour and Lib Dem parties is actually Right Wing, and believe that public discourse needs to seriously embrace Green and other alternative perspectives (e.g. the commons), then the bias is even more stark. It's almost monomaniacally blind to other views than the range from Social Democracy to xenophobic-ecocidal Conservatism.

Phil said...

I don't accept the LibDems are on the left or that Labour is "right-wing", but it all depends where you draw your dividing line.

I would like to see more radical voices on the telly because public debate and democracy as a whole benefits. But radical folk shouldn't wait for the media to come to them, because they'll be waiting a long time.

Anonymous said...

"This little study, based on the political allegiances of guests appearing on the programme between December 2008 and November 2012 found there was bias - the number of rightwing panelists outweighed guests from the left."

It shows nothing of the sort. It shows that some right wing guests have been on more than other left wing guests. In fact anyone who analysis it will see there is a clear and considerable bias towards the left - Labour, Liberal, Greens, SDP, Plaid Cymru, Sin Fein plus lefty comics etc.

Phil said...

I can only conclude you came to this conclusion without looking at the original piece.