Wednesday 9 March 2016

Keeping tabs on 'Newsnight'

Here is an updated list of all this year's Newsnight interviewees who have expressed their views on matters relating to the EU referendum on the programme:

Interview: Ken Clarke, Conservative (REMAIN)
Interview: Liam Fox, Conservative (LEAVE)
Interview: Alan Johnson, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: George Osborne, Conservative (REMAIN)
Interview: Carl Bildt, former Swedish PM (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Lucy Thomas, Britain Stronger in Europe (REMAIN); Dan Hannan, Conservative, Vote Leave (LEAVE)
Interview: David Liddington, Conservative (REMAIN)
Interview: Steve Baker, Conservative (LEAVE)
Interview: Kate Hoey, Labour (LEAVE)
Interview: Rob Wainwright, Europol (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Charles Powell, former Mrs Thatcher advisor (?); Annunziata Rees-Mogg. Conservative (LEAVE)
Interview: José Manuel Barroso, former EU Commission head (REMAIN)
Interview: Ross McEwan, CEO, Royal Bank of Scotland (?)
Joint interview: Emma Reynolds, Labour (REMAIN); John Mills, Business for Britain (LEAVE)
Joint interview: Ska Keller, Green (REMAIN); Lucy Thomas, BSE (REMAIN)
Interview: Zak Goldsmith, Conservative (LEAVE)
Joint interview: Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative (LEAVE); Neil Carmichael, Conservative (REMAIN)
Interview: Peter Mandelson, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: Nigel Farage, UKIP (LEAVE)
Joint interview: Simon Jenkins, Guardian (LEAVE); Danny Finklestein, The Times (REMAIN); Christine Ockrent, journalist (?)
Joint interview: Chuka Umunna, Labour (REMAIN); Tom Pursglove, Conservative (LEAVE)
Joint interview: Alex Barker, FT (?); Valentina Pop, Wall Street Journal (?) 
Interview: Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative (LEAVE)
Interview: Ken Clarke, Conservative (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Charles Moore, Spectator (LEAVE); Polly Toynbee, Guardian (REMAIN)
Interview: Sylvie Bermann, French ambassador to the UK (REMAIN);
Interview: Sadiq Khan, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: Damian Green, Conservative (REMAIN) 
Joint interview: Toby Young, Spectator (LEAVE); Kiri Kankhwende, Media Diversified (?); Anne McElvoy, The Economist (REMAIN); Jim Waterson, Buzzfeed (?)
Joint interview: Giles Fraser, priest (LEAVE); Caroline Lucas, Green (REMAIN); Ken Livingstone, Labour (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Anne Applebaum, journalist (REMAIN); Timothy Garton Ash, historian (REMAIN); Timothy Snyder, historian (REMAIN)
Interview: Inga Beale, CEO, Lloyds of London (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Heidi Allen, Conservative (REMAIN); Gisela Stuart, Labour (LEAVE)
Interview: Richard Tice, co-founder Leave.EU (LEAVE)

That works out as:

28 Remain
17 Leave
7 Questionable 

Of the ones in the 'Questionable' category: four are journalists/media commentators (from the FT, Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed and Media Diversified) who didn't express clear views on 'in' or 'out', while the other three (Charles Powell, Christine Ockrent and Ross McEwan of the RBS) should probably be placed in the Remain camp - thus, perhaps, raising it to 30 or 31.

The trend (so far) seems pretty clear, doesn't it?

(If anyone spots any holes in the above, please let me know below).


  1. One thing to watch out for - don't think you can really take account of it on your methodology, though - is the "authoritative" setting count. It may just be me but it seems that Remain supporters are interviewed in more authoritative settings - offices and studios and via satellite links - while Leave supporters are more likely to be interviewed on the hoof, e.g. in street settings. Another factor is that viewpoints given by academics and European "elder statesmen/women" seem to go more unchallenged. So much depends on context. A typical Newsnight ploy is to have Leave and Remain comments but then wheel on an academic or European stateperson to given an "objective" (the way that segment is signalled is often crucial e.g. "OK we've heard from both sides of the Referendum divide, now lets see if someone who's had a lot of experience of EU conferences can give us the wider perspective on what's going on..." - cue rapidly pro-EU gravy train rider).

    1. Interesting observations about how they frame the interviews.

      Rule #1 for 'independent, objective' voices is that if the BBC doesn't label them, you can guess which side they're on.

      Then there is the matter of analyzing how each guest is treated: free ride or relentlessly challenged.

  2. From another angle, I make it 12 Remain voices on their own, not followed (or preceded) by a Leave voice on the same episode, and that's not counting the March 4 installment with 3 Remain voices together.

    Only one Leave voice appeared on their own without being 'balanced' by a Remain interview on the same show.

    Not counting any of the question marks, although they would probably just add to the Remain tally.

    1. Good point. A solo Remain on a single programme has more impact than a 2 Remain to 1 Leave in a single programme.

  3. Have you seen this (on Guido's site) proposal from the BBC to Cameron for the big EU tv debate?

    Remain: George Osborne, Alan Johnson, Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas

    Leave: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith, George Galloway

    Supposedly the BBC denies it. But it would fiendishly clever if true. It almost makes one think they want Leave to win, because they'll wipe the floor with this group. Except we can bet they see Farage and Galloway on the same platform as poison for Leave.

    I'm not sure there's any combination of personalities that would make a strong showing for Remain, really, and the BBC will know this and need to fix it somehow.

    1. Live from Wembley Arena, it's...Tim Farron!

      That line-up would make past events in the Colosseum seem like a Woman's Hour coffee morning.

      Alan Johnson is probably Remain's best hope out of that lot, but his pitch is the 'poetic' one about the EU bringing peace and democracy in the wake of WW2 and the EU's 'healing' role after the fall of right-wing dictatorships in Southern Europe and left-wing dictatorships in Eastern Europe. How many votes will that swing to the Remain side? Not many I'd guess.

  4. Also this by Roger Mosey:

    I do not believe that there is systemic bias. The BBC will be meticulous in allocating airtime for contributors and its journalists will display their characteristic professionalism – but they will also need to have some empathy with the opposing camps.

    Show him your numbers.

  5. On the topic of the EU, last night's Question Time was hysterically funny. The SNP guy looked like a lunatic ideologue. Even Dimbleby took him to task for talking absolute BS. Nobody in the audience believed a word he said after a while. I laughed almost non-stop for the first 15 minutes or so. Things calmed down after a while, but it was still highly entertaining. When the BBC really tries to be scrupulously fair and straight when wrangling an audience, the truth comes out.

    It was a typically BBC stacked panel, 5 Remain vs 1 Leave. And I bet the SNP has been screaming down the phone and sending angry emails and texts to the producers over them ganging up on the poor guy. They would have a point, I think, as of course all three Westminster parties are going to be pro-Union. But it was the SNP dope's own fault for trying to make it all about Cameron going back on his promise to Scotland instead of trying to help the Remain side. No matter how many times somebody slapped him down, he kept coming back with the same foolishness. It was a bloodbath, and his bitching about the Tories and dishonesty about having another Scottish referendum really made the party look bad.

    But once again the BBC couldn't rig the audience. Another omen for a Brexit result, I say.

    1. Your prediction has proven correct.

      SNP whinge duly issued.

      BBC shrugs and says this shows they can't please everyone so must be doing something right.


    2. Yes, the SNP have been going wild, especially after they spotted a couple of Labour activists in the audience making points.

    3. So the BBC did try to rig the audience, but it didn't go according to plan. I don't blame the SNP for thinking the panel was stacked against them, because it was. We've heard the BBC reasoning behind this before: They were merely trying to have one representative from each party in Holyrood because we're approaching the Scottish elections.

      But there wasn't a single question from the audience - which they choose in advance and from which Dimbleby selects - about it. If there was, I missed it because I was laughing so hard. I think Ruth Davidson got a word in at one point about how the SNP haven't managed the economy well, but that was about it.

      Instead they wanted this to be about the EU, and the SNP guy screwed himself big time by trying to make it all about the nasty Tories breaking their promise and driving the Scots to want another independence vote.

      The real reason the BBC stacked the panel as they did was because they wanted as many pro-EU as possible. It was left to Tim Stanley to take up the Leave side. The Green rep was sort of for Leave, but was useless because, well, he's a Green and babbles about fairness and social justice, which in this context helps only Remain. Anti-SNP bias was an indirect result.


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