Sunday 22 May 2016

Introspective post

Although I stand firmly by my BBC EU referendum stats, a little voice in my head is sounding a note of warning. 

My inner voice is telling me that my stats are coming close to suggesting that the BBC is actively and exclusively working for Remain (to exaggerate slightly) and that this must either be (a) evidence that there's a major problem with BBC pro-Remain bias or (b) evidence that I'm cherry-picking.

Naturally, as I said two paragraphs ago (if you recall), I stand firmly by my stats. I've chosen to monitor some major BBC programmes, pre-announced most of what I've subsequently monitored, followed them through after pre-announcing them, and provided full details of the evidence I've found. I don't think I could have been more scrupulous.

And they've showed what they've showed: some pretty striking pro-Remain bias over time.

But, that little voice in my head tells me: "That's not the whole story, is it?"

And, of course, it isn't. 

And for all sorts of unexpected people - from the Daily Mail to Toby Young and Bill Cash MP - to give the BBC a pretty clean bill of health over their EU referendum coverage, there must be more to it than that. What are they seeing?

And there is, of course, more to it than that...

...and I don't just mean Jeremy Paxman's Paxman in Brussels: Who really rules us? (the one the pro-Remain lot are loudly shouting 'Bias!' about).

No, I should have quickly posted about the third instalment of Katie Razzall's Referendum Road feature for Newsnight (from Preston) which, I felt, went quite some way towards showing that she'd moved beyond the pro-EU bias of her first report (and well done her!):

A blogger should always mention such things, so mea culpa for not doing so much earlier.

And (h/t David Keighley) there have been some tough interviews with pro-Remain interviewees (other than those by Andrew Neil!) - such as Friday's Today interview with the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan (about 2 hours 40 minutes in), conducted by Nick Robinson, of all people. (That's one I didn't hear at the time. It was a scorcher.)

And with Dateline London improving on EU matters (this week's excellent episode featured blog favourite and leading Leave campaigner Alex Deane) and various other things (some of which I may have mentioned), it's obviously not all one way traffic.

Even my Newsnight monitoring (more on which next weekend), shows that the BBC has upped the number of pro-Brexit voices (though they still lag behind). And Friday night's edition did give George Osborne's pro-Remain scaremongering over housing quite a decent fisking.

As ever (even on black and white TV), nothing's ever entirely black and white (except for skunks). 

But what I'm monitoring (BBC News at Six, Newsnight, More or LessDateline, etc) only shows what I'm monitoring. (Not a tautology, in context).

And the resultant stats only show what they show. (Ditto!)

And they are (except, surprisingly, Dateline) showing a pronounced pro-Remain bias.

Plus, my stats are intended as medium-to-long-term studies rather than mere snapshots.

The BBC itself asks to be judged by medium-to-long-term studies rather than mere snapshots. The medium-term studies (here) are going strongly against them; a few of the snapshots aren't.

Make of that what you will.

Here endeth the case for the Defence.


  1. My comments:

    1. Your statistical analyses are really important. I think you should try and get them archived in some way.

    2. Your stats fully back the pro-Remain thesis. In so far as we can determine the private thinking of BBC staff from Twitter accounts and other evidence (pre BBC activities or post BBC activities) it is clear the vast majority are pro-migration and pro-EU. Ironically they are also anti-Tory and anti-American but obviously there has been a cessation in hostilities on those fronts during the campaign.

    3. Your stats can only do so much. There are a whole range of factors: tone of voice, facial expressions, where people are interviewed, failure to mention the EU funding of "independent" academics and so on that are weighing in on the Remain side.

    3. Context - even if (and it ain't)the BBC's coverage of the Referendum campaign were scrupulously fair, if you have for instance wall-to-wall pro migration propaganda going on in news (local as well as national), current affairs, drama, sport, lifestyle programmes and so on, then the campaign itself is being pulled one way and one way only.

  2. Craig, I am sure that the BBC throw in a few bits and pieces, like Paxo and a few tough interviews with Remainers, to be able to point to them when accused of bias. This is their normal method with other topics and their response when challenged.

    The only reason I can think of as to why Cash et al. take up their weird stance is worry that if they accuse the BBC of bias they will be denied the "oxygen of publicity". As to the Daily Mail, that is a mystery !

    1. I agree with you Grant. I think though that the Leave campaigners are being naive in not making a huge fuss about bias on the BBC. I think if they made enough fuss, the BBC would have to adjust its approach and Sky and ITV might also display less bias.

  3. I think the BBC throw in Paxo and a few tough interviews with Remainers so that they can point to them when accused of bias. That is their method with other topics.

    1. Agreed. It's the same with their numbers game with guests on Newsnight and other shows Craig tracks. They're sure that the basic numbers will be enough to demonstrate their balance over time, but even passing observation shows a marked difference in treatment of each side, never mind that Remain gets solo appearances while Leave voices are nearly always paired with a Remain voice.

      I've recently read ex-BBC Dennis Sewell's "A Question of Attitude", and he says impartiality and balance are more than a simple numbers game. He's right. In fact, he's right about a lot of things, many of which could almost have been taken verbatim from our comments over the years here and at B-BBC.

  4. the bbc are an utter disgrace. total bias against the leave side.......... i am just an ordinary person, but even i can see that they give much more " weight " to the remains version of things, and almost double the coverage. its time the leave side woke up & started shouting at the VERY VERY BIASED B.B.C............


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