Tuesday 29 March 2016

Still keeping tabs on 'Newsnight'

Dan, Emily and Lord

Regular readers (bless you) will know that I've been monitoring Newsnight since the start of the year to try and determine, once and for all, if they have a pro-EU bias - especially in light of this June's EU referendum.

I left it a couple of weeks ago or so (on the 8th March) with a list of guests showing (Remain/Leave-wise) the following 'balance':

28 Pro-Remain
17 Pro-Leave
7 Questionable 

What's happened since?

Well, this is the follow-up list:
Joint interview: Angus Dalgleish, scientist (LEAVE), Khuloud Al-Jamal, scientist (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Will Self, author (REMAIN?); Munira Mirza, London Deputy Mayor (LEAVE)
Interview: Bert Koenders, Dutch foreign minister (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (LEAVE?); Alastair Campbell, spin doctor (REMAIN?)
Interview: Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish deputy prime minister (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Anne McElvoy, Economist (REMAIN); Tim Montgomerie, The Times (LEAVE); Jonathan Freedland, Guardian (REMAIN)
Interview: Michael Fallon, Conservative (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Daniel Hannan, Conservative (LEAVE); Lord Falconer, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher (REMAIN)

Now, that might confuse you a bit - and it's rather confused me too. 

My criteria has always been that the interview must include something about the Brexit and be focused on the issue - i.e. the rights and wrongs of a Brexit.

So....the Trevor Kavanagh/Alistair Campbell spat doesn't really count as they were focusing on a media-spin doctor spat, and the 18/3 discussion focused on party political matters (Tory splits) rather than on whether we should leave the EU...so both of those have been placed in brackets and italics as not really counting.

The Will Self/Munira Mirza discussion (14/3) probably shouldn't count either - except that Munira made some pro-Leave points during the discussion. Its actual focus was on what constitutes 'the elite' in Britain these days rather than whether we should stay in the EU or not. 

The debate between the scientists  was well-balanced (and was focused on the issue itself too)..

...but - as you will have spotted - the rest of Newsnight's coverage has been dominated by continental voices (from Holland, Poland and France) being allowed unchallenged airtime to plead the case for the UK to stick with them and not leave them/bring about disaster.

So striking out Will Self, Trevor Kavanagh, Alastair Campbell, Anne McElvoy, Tim Montgomerie and Jonathan Freedland as 'not eligible' (with their probable 4:2 bias in favour of Remain)...

...that leaves a further 3 (Angus Dalgleish, Munira Mirza, Daniel Hannan) arguing for Leave...

...and a further 6 (Khuloud Al-Jamal, Bert Koenders, Mateusz Morawiecki, Michael Fallon, Lord Falconer, Bernard-Henri Levy) arguing for Remain.


I hope I've reasoned that out enough - and provided sufficient evidence - to prove that I'm not just engaging in a 'confirmation-bias'-fuelled orgy of statistical flim-flam here. 

(And you've got a couple of weeks to check these latest episodes out on the i-Player to see for yourselves). 

Newsnight is continuing to include both pro-Remain and pro-Leave guests, and staging some set-piece joints interviews with people from both sides.

It is, however, continuing to give the pro-Remain side the edge by giving unchallenging single-person interviews to continental European people who want the UK to stay in the EU. The Dutch, Polish and French interviewees made strong points in favour of us remaining with the EU - and none of them got contradicted by their Newsnight interviewers either. 

The 23/3 edition, with poor pro-Brexit Dan Hannan the joint filling (with anti-Brexit Lord Falconer) between slices of anti-Brexit Michael Fallon and anti-Brexit Bernard-Henri Levy was particularly loaded in favour of the Remain side.


So, for what it's worth, my update is:

34 Pro-Remain
20 Pro-Leave

...and plenty more Questionable (though tilting heavily towards Remain).

The trend remains pretty clear.


  1. And tonight we had the dubious report on "explaining" the conflict between phone and internet polls on whether Remain or Leave are out in front. Of course the reporter came down on the side of Remain, but that seemed to be on the basis of one pollster's interpretation and completely ignored the issue of turnout (which seems to favour Leave)- though Evan Davies mentioned it in a quick fire sentence when we returned to the studio. I think one can query really why this report was made some three months ahead of the poll - was the real aim to take the shine of the polls that put Leave ahead and which are therefore giving encouragement to the Leave campaign? I can't really see a good reason to highlight the issue in terms of news values, given all that is going on. And I can't believe there isn't a pollster around prepared to dispute the evidence in the report and argue it is the internet polls which are more accurate.

  2. The sub-trend of only Remain getting solo appearances continues as well. Please continue busting the BBC at their own dishonest numbers game.


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