Saturday, 16 April 2016

Keeping tabs on BBC One's News at Six

As every major BBC current affairs programme seems to be starting up 'new series' after 'new series' on the EU referendum, ITBB won't be left out either.

As BBC One's news bulletins are the place where most British people go to get their news - with, shockingly, some 48% getting it "only" from BBC One (if Ofcom is to be believed), we probably should focus on it a lot more.

So, this is the start of a short season of posts looking at the EU referendum coverage on the BBC's News at Six (or its weekend equivalents) to see how this much-watched bulletin is handling the matter. 

To keep it simple for myself, there won't be too many measures put in place. I'll just monitor (a) whether the opening headlines favour one side or the other, (b) compare the amount of time given to direct quotes from each side, and (c) count up the number of debunkings (eg. from Reality Check) included in each bulletin.

As yesterday marked the official start of the campaign, I thought it best to start there.

The results for Day One then are:

Helpful angles in the opening headlines
For Leave: 0
For Remain: 1

Direct quotes
From Leave: 31 s
From Remain : 58 s

Of Leave claims: 1
Of Remain claims; 0

As the good people at Cardiff University, possibly with the BBC's backing, will no doubt be doing precisely this kind of thing - and doubtless 'proving' in the process that the BBC did OK despite having a pro-Brexit bias - it's probably important that someone else, somewhere, keeps track too...

A full transcript follows below.

15/4 HeadlineNewsreader: As the EU referendum campaign is officially launched, a new warning from the Chancellor that mortgage rates could go up if the UK votes to leave.
George Osborne: Prices will go up and there will be instability in financial markets. And what that means for families is that mortgage rates are likely to go up.

ReportNewsreader: The starting gun has been fired for the official EU referendum campaign, with ten weeks to go until polling day. The Leave and Remain campaigns have been out in force at events around the UK setting out their core message to voters before the vote on June 23rd. Our political correspondent Carole Walker reports.
Carole Walker: You may have thought you'd heard a lot about the EU referendum but both sides are now stepping up their efforts to persuade you of their arguments. The latest poster unveiled by a former Labour health minister claimed we could spend millions more on the NHS if we were outside the EU.
Michael Gove: If we leave the European Union we can take back control of the £350 million that we hand to the EU every week - £50 million a day - and that money can be invested in our priorities like the NHS. And we can also make sure that we take back control of our borders and take back control of our laws.
Carole Walker: So what about that claim? Would we really have £350 million a week to spend on the NHS? In fact, the rebate takes our net contribution down to £276 million a week, but we get some of that back for regional aid, support for farmers and research, which might still need to be funded. So that would leave £161 million - though even if we did leave we might still have to contribute to the EU budget to get access to the Single Market. Those campaigning to stay in point to recent warnings from organisations from the International Monetary Fund to the big unions of the dangers and uncertainties of an Out vote. A former Labour chancellor said it would be "a leap in the dark":
Alistair Darling: They're offering a fantasy future where we keep all the benefits of Europe without being part of the Single Market. In the Single Market we trade freely right across Europe and we have a say in making the rules across the continent. If we leave we give up all of that with no idea what we'll get in return. Voting to leave is simply not a risk worth taking.
Carole Walker: On the day new spending limits begin UKIP's leader returned the campaign leaflet sent out by the government just before the deadline.
Nigel Farage: Well, the government has chosen to nearly £10 million of our money to tell us what we should think and how we should vote in this referendum and I don't believe that's within the rules. Even the Electoral Commission have said it's not within the spirit of the rules.
Carole Walker: For all the claims and counter-claims the two sides do agree on some things. The decision we take on June 23rd on whether or not to stay in the European Union will shape the future of our country for decades to come and the race is to close to call. Carole Walker, BBC News, Westminster.
Newsreader: Meanwhile, the chancellor George Osborne was warned that mortgage rates could go up if the UK votes to leave the EU. He was speaking in Washington where he was attending a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Our economics editor Kemal Ahmed is there, and what exactly has the Chancellor being saying?
Kemal Ahmed: Well, Sophie, he's really been adding to this long list of warnings we've had over the last week about the risks to Britain if Britain left the European Union. You'll remember, we had the chief economist of the IMF earlier this week talking about "severe damage" if Britain were to leave. We've just had a communique here from the G20 nations - those are the largest world economies - talking about a "shock" if Britain were to leave the European Union. And I think George Osborne has really changed tack as well today. He's warned about something he believes really brings this debate into the heart of millions of people's homes.
George Osborne: The Bank of England is independent and it makes its decisions on interest rates but the overwhelming view of the experts here in Washington is that if Britain leaves the EU prices would go up and there'd be instability in financial markets. That means it's likely that mortgage rates would go up, families would pay the price for Britain leaving the EU. It's another reason why we're better off in the EU and why families would be more prosperous inside the EU.
Kemal Ahmed: Now, the things is with those type of warnings, when you're talking about the economy, there are, of course, different points of view. I think those in the Leave campaign and economists who support Britain leaving the European Union would say, 'Well, if there's going to be all this kind of economic turmoil if we leave the last thing the Bank of England would do would be to raise interest rates. They would surely cut interest rates, and that would be good for mortgage holders.' I think the big point is that most people now agree that short-term there will be uncertainty, there will be volatility. Where they disagree is what would happen long-term. For those who say we should be out of the the European Union long-term they say it would be better for Britain to do that, but those who say we should remain in the EU staying there would be better ultimately for our economy.
Newsreader: Kemal, thank you.


  1. You remember that phrase that used to be used by TV luvvy news types (cupid-lipped Peter Jay in particular) - "a mission to explain" ? This has now morphed into a "a mission to exclude": to exclude Leave arguments, to exclude Leave headlines, to exclude Leave spokespeople, to exclude stories about migration (as far as the BBC appear to be concerned, Cologne New Year's Eve never happened and there is no longer any migration from Turkey), to exclude anything that plays badly for the Remain campaign (e.g. upcoming EU legislation now on hold), to exclude any further consideration of Cameron's mouse of a deal (despite that being the sand-like foundation on which the Remain campaign are claiming that the EU has been "reformed") and to exclude anything contradicts the Remain message (when did you hear a BBC reporter point out that a lower pound is good for British export industries all around the world?).

  2. No, I can't recall ever having heard a BBC reporter say that. It must be part of the BBC's "'bias by omission' mission".