The BBC’s – and Tory – journalist Nick Robinson has given a talk blaming the independent media’s ‘guerilla war’ and ‘social media bubble’ for the collapse of public trust in the mainstream media (MSM):
His talk include a ‘drive-by’ on the SKWAWKBOX, as well as other well-known independent left publications – incongruously lumped together with the lamentable and little-read, right-wing ‘Westmonster’, although this may have been an attempt to ‘balance’ what feels like an attack on the left-wing sources the Establishment finds inconvenient.
Mr Robinson’s eagerness to defend himself and his peers is understandable – but perhaps he ought to have spent a bit more time browsing through a few of the BBC’s own documents when he was preparing his talk.
It’s well-known that there have been serious academic studies exposing the extreme bias shown by the media against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party under him. However, while the bias may have gone to new extremes since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, it is not a new thing by any means.
As a BBC report admits.
The report, commissioned by the BBC from Cardiff University and available in the BBC’s own archives, analyses the sources used by the BBC for its news output in two separate years: 2007 and 2012.
It makes damning reading.
The report’s findings are telling, because in 2007 the UK had a Labour government and in 2012 a Tory-led coalition. Three sections in particular make a compelling case for BBC bias.
Direct political sources
This table depicts the sources used by the BBC in its output that are directly political – Prime Ministers and other politicians:
The table shows that:
- when a Tory PM was in Downing Street in 2012, the BBC went to him him as a source 36% more often than it went to his Labour predecessor in 2007
- in contrast to the increase detailed above for a Tory PM, in 2012 the access granted to a Labour opposition leader fell by 35%, so the combined difference of the increased Tory access and reduced Labour access is huge
- not only the PM is affected. The number of times the BBC gave a voice to Labour opposition ministers was down by a massive 62% compared to the Tories when they were in opposition
Political affiliations of other sources
The BBC also looked at the political affiliation of sources it used who were not politicians. This paints an equally imbalanced picture:
You might expect – though not approve – that a state broadcaster would give some kind preference to the government in power compared to the opposition. However, when Labour were in power, the BBC gave very nearly the same voice to the Tory opposition: 41% compared to the government’s 45%.
But when the Tories were in Downing Street in 2012, the number of opportunities the BBC gave to the Labour opposition fell by almost half to just 26% – while the opportunities given to the Tories now in government rose to 48%.
Based on the analysis the BBC itself commissioned, there is no room for doubt that the supposedly-impartial BBC gave the Tories enormously preferential treatment compared to Labour, whether in or out of power.
But it wasn’t only the left in Parliament that was disadvantaged. When the Tories entered Downing Street in 2010, they embarked on one of the biggest assaults in history on the public sector and on unions generally. Massive public sector job-cuts and laws to make it harder for unions to take action to defend their members have been one of the defining features of the coalition and Tory governments since 2010.
So you’d think an impartial broadcaster might give the unions and public sector an opportunity to comment – but the BBC seems to have done the opposite:
Compared to 2007, the access of the public sector to BBC broadcasts in 2012 fell by a colossal 60%. But that pales by comparison with the impact of Tory government on the access granted to the BBC to unions.
That fell by one hundred percent. In 2012, in the midst of draconian government actions against workers and the unions that represent them, while wages fell and insecurity raged, the BBC did not refer to a union source.
And remember, in 2012 Ed Miliband was Labour leader. Miliband was ill-served by the media, but the mistreatment he received was nothing compared to the relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he became a candidate, let alone leader of the Opposition.
Corbyn was not only cut off from fair access, but often actively misrepresented and derided by virtually all the MSM, including the BBC – while in many cases the only ‘Labour’ representation on panels and programmes was in the form of right-wing Labour opponents of the leader and of the majority of Labour’s surging membership.
Mr Robinson blames the alternative media for the collapse in public trust of the MSM – but perhaps he was using an alternative orifice to say it.
Compare his approach with the hugely-respected Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow’s mea culpa admission that the MSM has become hopelessly out of touch and Nick Robinson’s blame-game starts to look hopelessly self-serving:
Robinson claims that the alternative media’s “certainty fuelled by living in a social media bubble” is responsible for the implosion of the MSM’s credibility in the public’s mind. But possibly, just possibly, alternative media are actually doing their job and reporting what’s there.
In which case, the ones living in a bubble are the journalists who have squandered the public’s trust and are now trying – surprise – to blame others for it and the solution to the problem is for them to start doing their job.
They might just find a way back to public trust then – but it may already be too late.
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