Sunday 7 February 2016

Is Andrew Marr's show biased against the SNP?

Watching The Andrew Marr Show is just one possible way of experiencing it. Another is to read the accompanying social media commentary about it (of which there is a heck of a lot).

Inevitably there are plenty of political partisans commenting on Twitter, Facebook and other blogs and a surprising number of them get a real kick out of shouting 'BBC bias' at Andrew Marr - a lot of whose claims don't hold water when you investigate them.

Something I often see is political partisans complaining of 'BBC bias' because someone from a political party they don't like is on, or because someone from their own party isn't on (or simply because they can't stand the person or their views).

In comes from many sides of course, but this morning it came mostly from SNP supporters.

They often cry out en masse (especially on Twitter) whenever a Liberal Democrat politician appears and an SNP politician is absent - as on this morning's Marr, where Tim Farron was one of the interviewees.

"BBC bias!" cry the cybernats. "Where's the SNP?"

Now, if you look back through the programme's archive. however, you'll see that since the May 2015 general election there have been five interviews with Lib Dems (7.9% of the national vote, 8 seats) and seven interviews with the SNP (4.7% of the national vote, 56 seats):

7/2/16 Tim Farron
17/1/16 Nick Clegg
20/9/15 Tim Farron
6/9/15 Vince Cable
19/7/15 Tim Farron

24/1/16 Nicola Sturgeon
13/12/15 Alex Salmond
29/11/15 Stewart Hosie
11/10/15 Nicola Sturgeon
26/7/15 Alex Salmond
12/7/15 Stewart Hosie
10/5/15 Nicola Sturgeon

If you add in the paper reviews, then the following can be added to the above list:

10/5/15 - Baroness Grender

20/12/15 - John Nicolson
14/6/15 - John Nicolson

That seems like a fair balance, doesn't it, considering both their respective percentages of the national vote and the number of seats they won? So what are they complaining about?

Such people don't seem to grasp (or want to grasp) the point that the BBC has to try to achieve some kind of balance in who they choose to interview on these types of programme over time - and, yes, the BBC do have a point here about judging such things over time.

Now, the flip side of that  (for the BBC) is that those who want to hold them to account can take them up on that by judging some BBC programmes over a reasonable period of time (or over a large range of programmes) - such as, say, From Fact to Fiction, Dateline London, Sunday, A Point of View, Four Thought, etc, etc. That way you can show pronounced bias over time, and the evidence can't be shrugged off quite so easily because it's cumulative, not a one-off, and (hopefully) not just based on your own personal political prejudices.

Here endeth the lesson.


  1. Marr's show is definitely biased in favor of staying in the EU. In the paper review segment he and the Spectator's resident UKIP and Leave-basher, Isabel Hardman, couldn't stop laughing at how messed up the Leave side is because of all the different groups. They had a giggle at UKIP being split as well. Plus the two female guests insisted that there needs to be a strong female leader of the campaign, as women are most of the undecideds. Young Isabel pointed to the Scottish referendum as an example, yet the campaign with the strong female lead lost. She has a history of making errors in judgment when being supportive based on gender.

    Later on, Marr introduced Douglas Carswell with a falsehood on the issue of UKIP support of the campaigns, and Carswell had to correct him. I assume that because it's only Carswell, Marr won't be having to choke on an apology next week. His whole approach was to knock down UKIP, and to knock down the Leave side at every turn. I lost count of how many different variations on "If people are squabbling, it's disastrous" he used. That seems to be the whole case against Leave from the BBC and europhile media, which suggests they aren't confident enough to explain reasons to stay In. All negative questions, none of his usual helping the guest to rephrase and improve an answer.

    Full credit to Marr, though, for asking an honest question about whether or not forcing a constituency to elect only a homosexual is liberal. There was probably a heated discussion with his producer about whether or not he would dare phrase it that way. Farron easily danced around giving any answer by stealing Corbyn's dodge that the party is all so very democratic and the members will decide. I guess it works for him as he used it on almost every question. It's a great tactic for these guys. They can claim the moral high ground and being as right-on as possible on any issue, and then put their hands up and say, "It's not up to me, it's up the members", immediately avoiding any responsibility for doing anything.

    Then Marr let Farron define the immigration crisis as being a humanitarian issue, sob, sob, he's met women and children who are fleeing conflict. It will be 3 million this year, and apparently Cameron must let in far more.

    Not bothering with the rest of it now.

    1. The Douglas Carswell interview was entirely given over to the 'splits within the Leave camp' angle. That didn't give "UKIP's only MP" (as he was called countless time) any time to spell out his case for leaving the EU.

      This kind of thing looks to be happening quite a bit. Last Friday's Newsnight saw James O'Brien doing exactly the same thing with Kate Hoey.

    2. Narrative? What narrative?

      My theory about Cameron and Hall and the EU/immigration issue (which are now deeply intertwined) is bearing up. I know they all think the same way already and would be doing this anyway, but when the Cameroon press is doing it too, you know there are talking points.

  2. Excellent choice of picture, Craig. Andy’s doing a double-take - he can’t believe Tim Farron's got such tiny legs.


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