Saturday, 14 January 2017

Newsnight's Exam 2017

Brexit-related reports and interviews on Newsnight during the EU referendum featured a sharp disparity between the number of pro-Leave and pro-Remain guests, despite the BBC's official referendum guidelines. 

ITBB's own stats (all workings shown!) revealed that the imbalance ended up with around 53% of the interviewees being pro-Remain, 36% pro-Leave and 11% either undecided, neutral or hard to place.

What about now? 

Looking back at all the episodes of Newsnight since the start of 2017, several have included sections on Brexit. Have they shown more balance? Well, here are some initial impressions (using the old 'pro-Leave' and 'pro-Remain' terminology, based on their public positions at the time of the EU referendum)...

The opening show of 2017 was a highly enjoyable studio discussion between Evan Davis and eight guests (Dia Chakravarty, Matthew Goodwin, Deborah Mattinson, Mike Smithson, Jan Halper-Hayes, Tamsin Omond, Ted Malloch, Matthew Parris), They talked about some of the big themes for 2017 including Brexit and the EU. Balance-wise? Dia Chakravarty was the only passionate pro-Leave guest - although Trump-supporter Ted Malloch was heavily critical of the EU. Despite Evan's characteristically loaded questions (almost invariably from the 'BBC side of the discussion'), the discussion flowed fairly enough though, with all manner of interesting comments (especially from Matthew Goodwin).

The 5/1/2017 edition featured a report only (about Michel Barnier), and the 'talking heads' were heavily biased in favour of Remain, with four pro-EU voices (former European Commission official Jonathan Faull, Lib Dem Baroness Bowles, French centre-right MEP Michel Dantin, and former European Commissioner Chris Patten) against just one anti-EU voice (Nigel Farage). 

The 6/1/2017 edition featured a report and a joint interview about economic predictions, partly in the light of those inaccurate Brexit predictions. Only one of the 'talking heads' in the report discussed Brexit - the pro-Remain UCL professor Wendy Carlin. The following studio interview with the Guardian's Simon Jenkins and economist Vicky Pryce was, however, balanced. Both discussed Brexit. Mr Jenkins is pro-Leave, Ms Pryce pro-Remain.

The 9/1/2017 edition also featured and a joint interview about focused on politics but frequently alluded to Brexit, was totally unbalanced with both 'talking heads' in the report (Oliver Dowden, former adviser to David Cameron and Lord Wood, former adviser to Gordon Brown) being pro-Remain. They didn't say too much about Brexit though, unlike the two interviewees afterwards - Conservative Nicky Morgan and Labour's Liz Kendall - both of whom 'remoaned' vigorously.

It's still early days but it isn't exactly looking promising for the rest of 2017.

1 comment:

  1. Let us never forget that "representative" panel foisted on the licence fee payer by Newsnight. Remember? It was a regular feature during the EU Referendum campaign and helped the Newnsnight crew maintain the fiction that people were essentially pro-Remain and pro-immigration and could only be tempted to vote Leave by lies and unfair inducements. You may remember that the panel of "10 ordinary people" split 9-1 in favour of Remain! 9-1!!! Only out by about 40% with your representativeness Newsnight!

    I too enjoyed the New Year "exam" discussion. The fact that Newnsight can produce interesting and not-too-biased features when it wants, shows it is not exactly difficult. It still leaves plenty of space for the official "BBC view".