Hey Nick – BBC damns own bias in 3 simple tables

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):

nr graun

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:

pm source.png

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:

polit source

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:

union source

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.

At all.

Not once.

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:

js mea culpa.png

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.

The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.


  1. The MSM cut itself adrift from mainstream people when Corbyn was elected leader. There is no way of going back as they float away into the distance. It’s one of the best developments in British media ever; Alternatives arrive! Hacks like Robinson have taken several years to cotton on to the fact that their monopoly on the news has ended. How they’d love to return to the old days when they had real power. Too late, thank goodness.

  2. Nick might be interested in the testimony of thousands like me who AS A CONSEQUENCE of steadily becoming more and more disillusioned with mainstream media then turned to the new indie media. My faith in the Guardian for example was eviscerated when they capitulated to the government over wikileaks and destroyed their servers. They continued to regularly disappoint after that but it wasn’t until a whole year later that I began to read indie media in earnest. These new media gained their audience BECAUSE Of the disillusionment with the MSM, to suggest its the other way around is lunacy. If you are happy with the paper you buy why would you bother searching for and following other sources?

  3. I don’t think we need statistics. Anyone who regularly listens to the news on BBC Radio4 (as I do) can’t fail to spot the bias. They must think we’re idiots.

  4. As the centre of gravity of quality journos has shifted towards ‘poor’, Nick is one of the ‘relatively good’ ones. But he clearly didn’t think this through!
    Reputations are deserved, generally, and journalism has been sliding for years.

  5. The rot with the Beeb started before Nick, and first came to notice with Newsnight’s ‘exclusive’ on sexed-up dossiers re Iraq. It seemed to me then, starting most noticeably in the sports sections online & rapidly spreading to news & politics that they had started creating news, rather than reporting it.
    And that’s the deep-rooted problem with them, the erosion of their measured and considered reporting as once was. The pro-Tory bias is the worst manifestation of this lowering of standards.
    I’ve personally had to give up Garth because the Mirror became so pathetically anti-Jez, I just became utterly sick of it. Perhaps you or the Morning Star can start an agony column and get Garth, than I can have my cake & eat it.
    Still, sites like this have made a BIG difference-otherwise that predicted Tory landside probably would have happened, without your interventions trying to set the record straight.

  6. BBC has been taken over from top to bottom by Tories, Robinson’s attack was about realisation that people have other places to find their news and other information, instead of being subtle the BBC became obvious with their anti Labour rhetoric, I was an avid follower of Daily politics and thought it strange with the continuous references to the “weird” Ed Miliband and daily undermining of him, it continued with even more aggressive attacks on Corbyn, and of course they charge me for those attacks. the reporters with few exceptions are anti Labour, Look I understand Journalists want to work, and with the make up of the hierarchy at the BBC and 80% of the media owned by billionaires they toe the line or don’t work but the system has stifled real journalism in this country and the likes of Skwawkbox and other independent sites give very needed insight of what is actually happening in our world

  7. Considering that Rona Fairhead has just waltzed into a Ministerial Trade job after leaving the BBC, doesn’t really help Nick Robinson former Young Conservative and now BBC journalist.

    If Paul Mason or Laura Kussenberg had left the BBC to join as a Minister in a Labour government, the Tory press would be outta bed, demanding privatisation and outsourcing of the BBC.

    Everyone knows that newspapers tell lies, everyone knows the BBC political journalists are all Tories, Andrew Neil used to edit Murdoch toilet papers…
    Being left wing doesn’t get you anywhere near the BBC’s political journalism jobs.

  8. I worked on Ed Miliband’s campaign, our local newspaper owned by Johnstone Press refused to run adverts for Cat Smith, claiming it was independent and I’m partial.

    Cue Tories buying front page adverts across the country promoting Cameron from Johnston Press titles.,Cue furore from Labour, Johnston Press’ local editor claimed they had no control.

    Thankfully it didn’t alter the outcome, Cat was elected, and then increased her majority substantially despite more ‘friendly media adverts’ for Maybot.

    The local rag took an absolute battering from its readers, ifs circulation has certainly declined and hopefully will close.

  9. Dear Mr. Robinson,
    social media doesn’t have the characteristics of a bubble – enclosed isolation, preponderance of a single class, school, university or political affiliation, old boy network.
    The entity that has those characteristics in Spades is the BBC.
    Social media isn’t going to burst any time soon either, but…
    If the next government should hold an inquiry into political bias yours and your fellow-travellers’ may cost you your careers and the BBC its independence or existence.

  10. Remember fuddy-duddy, thick-stockinged old Auntie BBC?
    Never thought I’d miss her.
    Remember when Banks valued propriety above all – and vulgar salesmanship not at all?

    I blame Disco.
    Suddenly youth culture was envied by all, even Your Mum.
    Banks ditched old and experienced, swooned over young and thrusting. Paid them commission to sell fluff, destroyed their own reputations in the process.
    Share price everything, only as good as last quarter.
    Inevitability of bubbles and crashes was obvious to ex-staff with a clue.

    This was the time and the culture when Ratings told the TV companies no depths could be left unplumbed and the News was duly trivialised by clucking couples.
    I want my news back.

  11. “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.”

    I’m a Labour member, and sympathetic to the Jeremy Corbyn cause, but from a ‘statistical science’ perspective, I’m not sure that there is “no room for doubt” based on the findings of the Cardiff University report cited in the article.

    For example the article claims 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”.

    This is a little like a new drug “reducing the risk of heart attacks by 40%” – it sounds impressive and meaningful but when you look at the absolute numbers and see that risk was reduced by 40% from 1.0% to 0.6%, it doesn’t look so impressive or meaningful after all. Similarly, the %s on sourcing information from the PM vs. Leader of the Opposition highlighted in the article are pretty small. At least a pharmaceutical company would have needed to have shown a statistically significant difference in a robust randomized controlled trial setting to make its 40% claim; the BBC Trust report does not assess statistical significance.

    The article also notes an apparent decline in Labour-affiliated sourcing in 2012 vs 2007, contrasted with a slight rise in Tory-affiliated sourcing in 2012 vs. 2007. In both 2007 and 2012, the share of sourcing is pretty similar for the leading party of the day (within 3.4 %, which I will assume is within the margin of error). The question therefore becomes about whether the voice of the leading opposition party has been diminished, and if so why. The article concludes that this is due to BBC bias, but does not take into account at all the changing political landscape. For example, the SNP gained significant prominence from 2007 to 2012 (0.0% to 8.5%). It is logical and expected that having more prominent non-governing party voices in the debate is going to dilute the voices of those who were in the debate already. I am sure that there are lots of other confounding factors that may have affected these results.

    It is noteworthy that the Cardiff University report makes no suggestion or conclusion that its research indicates party political bias on part of the BBC.

    I think there are genuine questions about BBC impartiality given the background of many of its leading journalists. However, one should be careful about using statistics appropriately in political debate.

    We (the left) often and rightly call out the ever-increasing misuse of statistics by the government and its cronies, but this attack is only a credible one if we ourselves are not guilty of the same. It is ironic and unfortunate that an article about bias appears, to me at least, to be subject to confirmation bias where the author has interpreted Cardiff University’s analysis through the prism of a pre-existing belief.

    1. Interesting perspective and information, James. But the fact remains, there is a consistent preference given to the Tories over Labour in the scenarios described – and the information is what it is. The BBC doesn’t give more to go on. Perhaps ‘no room’ should have read ‘little room’

  12. It’s worth rechecking Chomsky every now and then with regards to the media. The following clip is from an interview of Chomsky by Andrew Marr, it may give a clue as to why the BBC genuinely (hard to type but said with all sarcasm put aside) cannot see the bias while everyone else can. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLcpcytUnWU

    In connection with Chomsky’s documentary “Manufacturing Consent”

  13. Most of my news comes from the Skwawkbox, and a big part of it’s attraction is the high quality of the comments section.
    Thanks everyone.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: