Thursday 13 June 2013

Prepping listeners for Prem

A few posts at Is the BBC biased? [all to be found here] have dwelt on the perplexing failure of the BBC to present Professor Prem Sikka as being a senior figure from the left-wing campaign group, the Tax Justice Network. No, whether it's on his many appearances on Today or, say, on Broadcasting House, the BBC repeatedly introduce him as being merely a "professor of accounting at Essex Business School", thus risking misleading listeners into taking him to be that most trustworthy of interviewees - an independent expert. He is, in fact, no such thing.

He was on Today yet again this morning, making his usual case, and, yes, John Humphrys introduced him as being "professor of accounting at the Essex Business School,  the University of Essex", and nothing more.

The relevant BBC Editorial Guideline is this one: 

We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.

Perhaps Today might argue that Prof Sikka's viewpoint as a hard-left political campaigner becomes apparent from his contribution, but Prem's contributions are sometimes (though not always) worded in such a way that listeners might well assume him to be nothing more than a disinterested academic with strong opinions. 

It really would be helpful if Today started introducing him as "Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the Essex Business School and campaigner for the Tax Justice Network", wouldn't it? The additional words would only take a few extra seconds to say, but they would add so much more value to the listeners' understanding of the interview.

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