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Tuesday 3 September 2013

Bias At The BBC – Debunked Again

The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), founded by such luminaries as Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph, recently attempted to paint the hated BBC as exhibiting a left-wing bias. The study was backed up by supposedly sound statistical evidence, thus giving the right the stick with which to beat the Corporation that they have so long craved. But the flaws were obvious from the start (see HERE and HERE).
Now, the LSE’s Media Policy Project has examined the CPS study, and Gordon Ramsay has tried to replicate the findings, only to find that they don’t stand up. Moreover, the central plank of the CPS research, that the Guardian and Telegraph are polar equivalents of left and right, is shown to be fatuous. The conclusion is the old adage of “garbage in, garbage out”.

Ramsay starts with this important caveat: “this is not intended to be a defence of the BBC; it is an argument for adhering to the basic principles that keep empirical research ‘honest’ – verifiability, replicability, validity of methods, and so on. The CPS report on the BBC is deficient in all of these areas. It is opaque, it omits key data, resists replication, and presents results obtained via contentious methodology as fact without acknowledging alternative explanations”.

Ramsay also echoes my concern about using the Guardian and Telegraph as equalling “left” and “right”, calling it “a contestable starting point”, and noting, as I did, that the spectrum of 40 think-tanks was seriously flawed, placing the IEA and ASI to the left of IPPR. And there was worse to come.

The CPS took a subset of just 10 think-tanks and analysed the number of times these were mentioned by BBC Online News. The LSE study takes this information and uses it to show where the BBC, and national newspapers, come out on the left/right spectrum. And the results should make uncomfortable reading for the CPS, and their allies out there on the right.
As can be seen from the table above, the BBC comes out as being, if anything, slightly right leaning; what might be termed small-c conservative, or, if you will, establishment leaning. The newspaper that comes closest to the centre, demonstrating that the CPS were wrong to cite it as equalling “left”, is the Guardian. Only the Independent comes close to matching it.

The conclusion, that it is harder for left leaning think-tanks to get mentioned by press and broadcasters, rather goes against the CPS’s narrative, which attempts to suggest the opposite. But, as is pointed out, the move to paint the BBC as biased is occurring at the same time as we approach the next series of discussions over renewing the Corporation’s charter.

As Private Eye might have asked, I wonder if the two are in any way connected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's worth pointing out that 'left' and 'centre' thinktanks are grouped together. This means that the L/R balance actually already shows a bias to the right.