Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Record high contrast in how the BBC and the Telegraph report today's employment news!


The front page of the online Daily Telegraph is emblazoned with the good news:
More good news for UK economy as figures show the number of Britons claiming jobless benefits fell by 8,600 to the lowest level in two years in May, its seventh consecutive drop.
Click into the article and you'll find that the good news keeps on coming, with good statistic after good statistic being reported. 

As well as  UK employment reaching a record high between February and April (the highest since records began over 40 years ago), unemployment has fallen by 5,000 and the number of people seeking jobless benefits has fallen to its lowest level in two years (its seventh consecutive drop). Manufacturing firms are hiring again too. A word of caution is sounded, however, towards the end of the article with regards to the rise in average weekly earnings - especially the 3.3% spurt in earnings in April, due to high bonus payments that month:
Excluding bonuses, pay growth was 0.9pc in the three months to April and 1.3pc percent in the month of April alone.
Still, 'Good news, good news!' - according to the Telegraph. 

Though the BBC cannot be accused of ignoring the good news completely - it's leading its website with the story after all! - its home page presentation is far more muted in tone and manages to include a negative point about the 'recent upward trend' in unemployment straight away:
UK unemployment falls by 5,000 in the three months to April, partly reversing a recent upward trend, the Office for National Statistics says.
That hedged, slightly negative tone, so different to the Telegraph's cheer-leading, continues and grows throughout the BBC article (once you've click into it), with plenty of negative statistics being included along the way. Unlike the positive statistics, however, some of the negative ones are accompanied by similarly negative 'editorialising' comments from the BBC journalist(s) behind the article. ("That means that the real purchasing power of wage earners continued to be eroded," for example).

In the BBC article you can hardly fail to notice the use of a highly negative and strongly subjective term in relation to the underlying April pay growth mentioned above:
Excluding the effect of bonuses, earnings rose an even more paltry 0.9% from a year earlier.
According to the Free Dictionary:
paltry 
adj.
1. Lacking in importance or worth. See Synonyms at trivial.
2. Wretched or contemptible.
(Will that word get 'stealth-edited' out of existence as the day proceeds?). 

Yes, the contrast between the takes of the two media organisations (the Daily Telegraph and the BBC) is really striking

The words 'good news' are not to be found in the BBC's version and, as of this moment in time (shortly after the news has 'broken'), the BBC article includes a video of someone from the Office of National Statistics, with this negative choice of quote from the interview as its caption beneath:
Nick Palmer from the ONS: "The underlying picture really is fairly flat for unemployment as a whole"
The only quotes within the BBC article (so far) are from Dave Prentis of the Unison union saying "the overall picture is still gloomy"

The record-breaking high employment figures are, in contrast to the Telegraph (which leads with that angle), mentioned very briefly, as if in passing, in the BBC article's 13th paragraph (in just twelve words).

The fall in the number of people claiming jobless benefits is described by the BBC is described as a "surprise". It doesn't mention, as the Telegraph does, that this is the seventh consecutive drop in a row.

Reading the largely downbeat BBC article, you would be hard-pressed to think there's much good economics news around at all - though it does end with that rise in manufacturing output highlighted by the Telegraph.  

Now, the Daily Telegraph tends towards the Right politically and towards the present government. The BBC is, of course, strictly impartial (!), though it gives a pretty good impression of tending towards the Left politically and against the present government here. Make what you will of that.

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