Thursday 12 May 2016

Comparing and contrasting

Tonight's BBC One News at Six began with another pro-Leave point: Bank of England governor Mark Carney's dire warnings about a vote to leave the EU:
A warning from the Bank of England: Leaving the EU could trigger a recession.
The bulletin's reporting was 'impartial' in the BBC sense, in that:
  • (a) the bulletin kept using words like "stark" and "strong" to describe the governor's comments.
  • (b) the BBC's economics editor Kamal Ahmed, after laying out Mr. Carney's anti-Brexit case in detail, said that "many economists agree with the Bank's gloomy prognosis" and then featured one such economist doing just that...
  • '...balanced' by (c) a clip of Norman Lamont saying, very briefly, that Mr. Carney is wrong... 
  • and then (d) BBC political reporter Alex Forsyth setting the context by saying that Mr. Carney's intervention is "undoubtedly a boost" to the Remain campaign as Mr. Carney is "a senior, credible figure once again warning in no uncertain terms of the economic risks of leaving.
ITV's early evening news bulletin also led with that same pro-Leave point and, like Kamal Ahmed, ITV's deputy political editor Chris Ship also laid out the governor's concerns in some detail. 

Unlike the BBC, however, Chris Ship also said "the truth is" that the economic forecasts aren't great at the moment whichever way we vote, and his 'talking heads' included two people who disagreed with Mr. Carney: John Redwood and Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin - both making substantive points against the BoE governor.

ITV struck me as taking its 'impartiality' responsibilities far more seriously than the BBC there. The BBC felt outrageously one-sided in comparison.

And after giving us its Mark Carney coverage ITV then moved straight onto the EU immigration question - for many Brexiteers the big story of the day - and those ONS figures with Chris Ship giving us James Brokenshire on one side and Liam Fox on the other, plus talk of economists claiming immigration is good for us on one side and Leave supporters saying we can't control our border on the side, plus mention of the "true scale" of immigration and the figures taking us into "unprecedented" territory. 

The BBC, in contrast, didn't move straight onto the EU immigration story. It moved on to other stories instead. And we had to wait until nearly the end of the bulletin again for the EU immigration story to appear. And, again, it was given short shrift. 

The BBC newsreader, George Aligiah, introduced it as being a case of Leave campaigners "saying" and the ONS "clarifying". It's "quite complicated", said George. Yes, it's "not very easy", said the BBC's Tom Symonds. Tom said that "Eurosceptics say" it's an underestimate but "the nation's number-crunchers" have "tried to explain it today" as being just a matter of short-term migrants. He elaborated somewhat on the the ONS's explanation, explaining their case in a tone of patient reasonableness. Then he said: Eurosceptics say this, the government says that.

'BBC impartiality' duly fulfilled. Story duly downplayed.

Is ITV biased? Is the BBC biased?

On the strength of this I'm definitely going with the latter.


  1. Undoubtedly the big news story of the day was the number of national Insurance numbers that have been issued in the last 12 months, indicating that EU immigration, mainly from eastern Europe, is about twice what the government immigration figures have been saying. However that story has been pushed down the BBC agenda by the government issuing the White Paper on BBC Charter renewal (and what a disappointment, giving strength to the rumours that Whittingdale was leant on by Cameron and Osborne who are both frightened of the BBC)and by The Governor of The Bank of England remarks about possible Brexit. There was a clear case of government news management, aided and abetted by the BBC.

    Christopher Scopes

    1. Yes it was an obvious bit of media manipulation - which has gone completely unremarked upon in the media.

  2. When was the last time John Redwood was given a prime-time spot on an important issue on the BBC?

  3. Newsnight has gone one better. It appears that it is not even covering the ONS report!

  4. Not sure the Carney-Legarde copping ins are helping Remain any more than did Obama.


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