Week in, week out: researcher Chris Murphy details ‘staggering’ BBC bias findings

One of Chris Murphy’s charts detailing political party bias in BBC paper coverage. Other charts show a frequent complete absence of red

Birmingham-based researcher Chris Murphy took on himself the gargantuan task of monitoring and recording the BBC’s daily failures – across a period of a year – to achieve any kind of balance in its coverage of each day’s newspaper coverage. What he found was astonishing – and led to a series of complaints to the broadcaster and to broadcast regulator Ofcom.

In a guest article exclusively for the SKWAWKBOX, Murphy details his experience and findings in his daily task – and their culmination:

What I found whilst documenting episodes was quite staggering. It wasn’t an isolated incident to find the panel just discussing Conservative party endorsing newspapers in episodes!

Chris Murphy

People from all parts of the political spectrum complain about bias in British state media.

As a person watching plugged into the BBC matrix, it’s sometimes hard to see the woods from the trees.

Since being politically active, I wondered about this subject. I’d seen some fantastic work from people doing analysis on BBC politics programs, so armed with my suspicions having watched the odd BBC papers, decided to have a closer look at the output of their night time episodes of the program.

For reasons of validity, reliability and consistency, I specifically monitored their 10.30pm edition.

To help formulate the data in the program, I needed to come up with a measure; the one I decided on was the political parties the newspapers endorsed in the 2017 national general election.

I put these into a table and when a different source was discussed, I added it to the table. ‘Non-aligned or ‘Non-affiliated’ refers to newspapers who didn’t endorse a political party.

What I found whilst documenting episodes was quite staggering. It wasn’t an isolated incident to find the panel just discussing Conservative party endorsing newspapers in episodes!

It also wasn’t unusual to see Labour endorsing newspapers not discussed at all in episodes or less than half the time in a week.

On occasions, Labour endorsing paper/stories were discussed less than 10% the time over the course of a weekly or bi-weekly summary. It wasn’t unusual to see Tory papers discussed 6 or more times over the course of the week than Labour ones.

Over the year, I complained to the BBC about the disproportionate representation of Conservatives over Labour on BBC papers, but I witnessed no change in the program output. On one occasion, I managed to get my complaint escalated to OFCOM, where when submitting my complaint to them, was told I was unlikely to hear back about it.

In the belief the BBC regulator OFCOM would address my concerns, I persisted in documenting the programs, but sadly there was no visible change in their output.

After some thought, I decided there was no point in continuing analysing BBC paper output. I made the decision to collate all the data I had collected and published a final 361-day summary of my findings, along with a final complaint to the BBC about their blatant bias on BBC papers.

The final figures over 361 consecutive days was that Tory endorsed papers were discussed 65%, compared with Labour at 12% and Non-Affiliated 23%; Tory papers discussed over 5 times more than Labour endorsed papers.

In past BBC replies, they’ve told me there’s nothing they can do when most mainstream newspapers are endorsing the Conservative party.

This doesn’t however explain why the Morning Star has not featured in even one of the 361 episodes. It doesn’t explain how BBC papers have over that time featured social media such as Buzz Feed and Huffington Post, or international newspapers.

In 2019 and with newspaper circulation nose diving, there clearly needs to be an overall in the program, to fairly represent the audience and the electorate, to re-address the balance when there is a growing and very significant proportion of society now just accessing their news from Social media.

It’s criminal that hugely popular left-wing media outlets such as Skwawkbox, the Canary, Evolve, and Novara Media have never been featured on the BBC paper platform in 361 days of watching it.

It’s high time the BBC recognises across the board the hugely influential and brilliant social media news media who have a mass readership and following who represent the present and future, and not the past.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

Chris Murphy’s dedication and careful method in his monitoring of BBC output is to be applauded. His findings confirm the anecdotal experience of Labour supporters across the country – but they are no less staggering, or damning, for that.

Even worse is the failure of the broadcaster or Ofcom to engage in any meaningful way with an issue that can rightly be said to concern the heart of their reason for existing.

BBC bias against the left is not merely a matter of left-wing opinion. In spite of the many millions in this country who support left politics through their votes for the Labour Party, it is – and not for the first time – an empirically-established fact.

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  1. There is little surprise in any of this because what the majority of the print media, the broadcast media, the Tories and yes the Labour Party all have in common is they are heavily influenced by the Israeli Lobby.

    When journalists such as John Pilger, Peter Oborn, film makers such as Ken Loach or Politicians, whom I won’t name, try to highlight it they are immediately termed anti-Semites and are ostracised.

    The Labour party has even been stupid/compliant enough to give the Israeli lobby a new weapon to use against us, the IHRA definition.

    1. I think it’s well documented that the BBC live in fear of the Israeli government/London embassy and self-censor themselves as much as they are “heavily influenced.”

    2. Yes. As you say – little surprise. Of course, this is partly because the printed media is overwhelmingly Tory. That much is true. But many of us have noted the complete blackout on the ‘Morning Star’ in ‘What the Papers Say’.

      The BBC’s excuse is, of course, disingenuous: there is no requirement to report second hand news, least of all reflect the built-in bias of the press.

      There are other impulses at work in shaping the agenda than simple bias and blindness. As pointed out, the fear of the Israeli lobby is well documented, and is known to every reporter and editor. But it rarely surfaces – a demonstration of that fear. In general, the supression of criticism of zionism and its manifestation in Israel is far more present and widespread than the antisemitism and holocaust denial that it alleges.

      Then there is simple laziness – allowing the news agenda to be set by what is the narrow focus of the metropolitan media gang-bang and its game of received truths.

      All this adds up to poor journalism.

      1. It isn’t ‘poor journalism’, it’s CORRUPT journalism! In actual fact, it isn’t ‘journalism’ at all!

  2. Utterly extraordinary that The Morning Star didn’t feature once: I can clearly remember the paper being mentioned in the distant past, so something has changed.

    1. The BBC won’t review the Morning Star even though it’s a national daily. I stopped buying the Morning Star out of protest when it published a reactionary article about transwomen.

      The Morning Star is still valuable to the working class and it should be included in the round up of papers.

    2. It did get some kind of mention in the past. Definitely.

      As for the present time, a few years ago an MP did sponsor an Early Day Motion in Parliament to urge the BBC to have the Morning Star reviewed on the Today Programme (R4).

      It failed because it was not brought up in subsequent sessions to the point where it achieved its goal. People should not end their campaigns until they have succeeded.

      Here is somebody who did not give up and only stopped when he achieved his goal:


  3. I’m afraid there’s no surprises here. The BBC has always been the propaganda wing of the Tory Party.

    1. Not as simple as that; it has also been the focus of Tory ire, and accused of ‘liberal’ bias. However, the balance has been tipped with recent politicisation of the governing structures.

      1. Yes, the Israeli Lobby and the Tories require total subservience from the BBC. Any deflection from that position results in a deluge of complaints. However it also serves the BBC because they can then make the false claim to be neutral because both sides have a go at them.

    2. BBC is the propaganda arm of the British establishment not the Tory Party per se. BBC loved and still loves Blair (et al) who put a pretty face on Thatcherite “extreme centre” policies enabling neoliberal policies to continue unabated until today. Tories are the political wing of the establishment so BBC is usually in line with them politically particularly now LP has made moves back to its traditional soft left position.

  4. My own bit of totally unscientific research (listening to the Today programme for a month) shows that in the 31 instances of a conducted debate featuring a Tory,or Tory supporter and someone with a contrary opinion,generally a Labour MP or an environmentalist the Tory had the last say in the piece on all but two occasions.

    1. PM Corbyn should instigate a clear-out in the BBC’s news/current affairs dept on Day One in office. Then a handpicked interviewing panel with more Reithian values should screen anyone reapplying for their jobs. That’d be a start…

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