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Thursday 14 January 2010

Broadsheet Watch – 8

Another supposedly open and shut case today from the Maily Telegraph turns out to be a cheap and slanted piece of churnalism. The line of attack – to assert that the BBC is “wasting money” - is straight from the school of attack journalism as taught by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, and is backed up with the kind of substance characteristic of papers like the Daily Mail: roughly zero.

The Beeb, says the piece, has paid “huge sums” for some sports rights, and has “outbid rivals” for US programming, which supposedly “could be ploughed into home grown drama”. The source for the assertions is a supposedly “independent review”, although the Telegraph is unduly reticent in identifying the source, only telling in paragraph five that it is Policy Exchange.

So just how independent is Policy Exchange? Helpfully, its website has an “about us” tab: clicking this reveals its research interests, and first off is “Using centre-right means to progressive ends”. Featured politicians speaking up for this body include Mayor of London Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, along with MPs Oliver Letwin and Tim Loughton – who by miraculous coincidence are all Tories. A further and most fortunate coincidence is that Policy Exchange has released a report chiming with much of what Murdoch Junior has been urging.

Back at the Telegraph, the assertions of how much the BBC is spending on all those sports rights and US imports are backed up with, well, no figures at all – just like the Policy Exchange press release. Because it’s clear from a reading of both that the press release has been used – uncritically – as the basis for the article, churnalism at its worst. For a supposedly quality newspaper, this is an insult to its target audience.

But at least it makes a change from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance.

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