Saturday 9 January 2016

How to Make a Brexit Sound Fiendishly Complicated

There have been two detailed critiques of Carolyn Quinn's 40-minute Radio 4 documentary How to Make a Brexit this week. 

The first comes from Dr Richard North at EU Referendum, but I'll pass over that and move straight onto David Keighley's more engaging take at The Conservative Woman

The first point to draw from David's piece is that in all his time (16 years) of monitoring the BBC's output he's never come across a dedicated programme on the subject of what leaving the EU would involve - which is a remarkable thing when you think about it, unless you think that the BBC has been consistently biased in favour of the EU for so long that it never crossed its mind to seriously consider airing the possibility. 

Having listened to the documentary before reading either critique, I can see the truth of David's argument here, which is that the programme appeared to be projecting a message here: that leaving the EU would be scarily difficult. 

I can see it because I remember myself thinking at the time that the whole thing (leaving the EU) sound very complicated. So it had even worked on me!  

Take a look at the transcription at News-watch. You can see for yourself, again and again, how the idea that leaving the EU would be a matter of unprecedented complexity is planted again and again - and not just from the pro-EU speakers.

I was, of course, listening out for the balance of speakers, which sounded OK to me; however, David's analysis of the programme shows that appearance of balance, speaker-wise, to have been a spurious one statistically-speaking: a word count shows that 1,200 words went to the pro-EU side and just 800 to the Eurosceptic side.

David's other argument is that the pro-EU speakers were given the space and edited so as to make them sound "coherent and persuasive" in arguing that leaving the EU is scary and difficult while the Eurosceptic side were "fragmented and edited" in such a way as to serve the programme's purpose. "If they provided Quinn with any clear argument in favour of exist, they were not obvious to the listener", he adds.

This is clearly going to a year when BBC bias watchers are going to have to keep their eyes wide open.

1 comment:

  1. The wisdom of The Simpsons and, apparently, Radio 4;

    Homer's advice to Bart, upon hearing that he quit learning the guitar:
    H: "Of course I'm not mad, if something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV."


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