Sunday 19 June 2016


Here are various statistical takes on the BBC's coverage of the EU referendum, starting with some updates on Newsnight and BBC One's News at Six...

BBC TWO Newsnight Interviewees

The difficult question this week was whether to include Thursday and Friday's interviews in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox. As both discussions spent time discussing how the murder relates (or doesn't relate) to the EU referendum debate (with some of the guests making points against one side or the other), it was obviously necessary to include them.

Here's the latest list:
Joint interview: Robert Macinnes, building business owner (LEAVE); Mary Ann MacIver, tourism business owner (REMAIN)
Interview: John Curtice, polling expert (NEUTRAL)
Joint interview: John Boyle, businessman (LEAVE); Alasdair Allan, SNP (REMAIN); Denise Mina, author and playwright (REMAIN)

Interview: Hillary Benn, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: Anna Turley. Labour (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Anna Turley, Labour (REMAIN); Frank Harrison, former steel worker (LEAVE)

Interview: Steve Hilton, former Conservative strategist (LEAVE)

Joint interview: Jonathan FreedlandGuardian (REMAIN); Anne McElvoy, Economist (REMAIN); Polly Billington, Labour (REMAIN)

Joint interview: Douglas Murray, Henry Jackson Society (LEAVE); Daniel FinkelsteinTimes (REMAIN); Jo Berry, Building Bridges for Peace (UNKNOWN)

By my reckoning that changes our running total, which was
72 Pro-Remain
50 Pro-Leave
14 Questionable/Undecided  

81 Pro-Remain
55 Pro-Leave
16 Questionable/Undecided 

As for the sub-trend looking at who gets most of all of the solo appearances (i.e. not in joint interviews), well, we left that at: 

Remain - 29
Leave - 15

I now make that:

Remain - 31
Leave - 16

...with Remain still approaching double the number of one-person interviews that Leave has been invited to attend since the beginning of the year.


BBC One News at Six lead angles

As for BBC One's News at Six (and its weekend equivalents), we last left our monitoring of its choice of EU referendum-related angle - as ever defined as "which side's angle comes first in either the headlines or the whole bulletin" - with the following running total:

21 for Remain
7 for Leave

Here's the latest batch:
12/6  David Cameron's latest warning on the risks of leaving the EU: the value of our pensions could be at risk.

13/6  Labour heavyweights pitch into the referendum debate. Gordon Brown makes the case for staying in a bid to get the Labour vote out.

14/6  Labour warns the NHS is a risk if the UK leaves the European Union but admits more needs to be done to control immigration.

15/6  65 Tory MPs turn on George Osborne after he says leaving the EU would mean an emergency Budget and higher taxes. Making waves. Leave MPs say they would vote him down. The Chancellor argues he'd have no choice.

16/6  The Bank of England has issued a new warning about the economic risks in the UK and globally if Britain votes to leave the European Union. The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee said the referendum was the largest immediate risk facing global financial markets. It warned that businesses and consumers were putting off major economic decisions and said the uncertainty was effecting the stability of the pound.

17/6 (no coverage)

18/6  Official campaigning over next week's referendum remains suspended following the murder of the MP Jo Cox. Today the International Monetary Fund, delivering its annual report on the UK economy, warned it could shrink by 5% in the event of the UK leaving the EU. The warnings have been dismissed by those who support leaving.

19/6 Campaigning resumes in the EU referendum with both sides strongly disagreeing about what the vote means for the economy and immigration. In campaigners maintain a Brexit would hit people's pockets, but Vote Leave say the UK can deal with whatever the world throw at us.

The one on the 15/6 strikes me as slightly open to question, but George Osborne's pro-Remain angle was the main angle. The rest seem pretty straightforward. All of them put Remain angles first. That, therefore, raises our running total to: 

28 for Remain
7 for Leave


BBC ONE Question Time Panels

And now for a new one, echoing the conscientious work of Wronged at Biased-BBC but beginning instead with the edition after David Cameron named the date for the EU referendum back in February. 

The results are striking - and better for the BBC than the above: 

25/2 - 2 Remain, 3 Leave
3/3 - 2 Remain, 2 Leave, 1 undecided 
10/3 - 5 Remain, 1 Leave 
17/3 - 3 Remain, 2 Leave
7/4 - 2 Remain, 3 Leave
14/4 - 2 Remain, 3 Leave
Sub total: 16 Remain, 14 Leave, 1 undecided

21/4 -2 Remain, 3 Leave
28/4 - 3 Remain, 2 Leave
5/5 - 2 Remain, 2 Leave, 1 undecided 
12/5 - 3 Remain, 2 Leave
19/5 - 3 Remain, 1 Leave, 1 undecided
26/5 - 2 Remain, 3 Leave
2/6 - 3 Remain, 2 Leave
9/6 - 2 Remain, 3 Leave
16/6 - 3 Remain, 3 Leave (cancelled at the last minute, due to the murder of Jo Cox)
Sub total: 23 Remain, 21 Leave, 2 undecided

Final total: 39 Remain, 35 Leave, 3 undecided
Panels biased towards Remain - 6
Panels biased towards Leave - 6
Balanced panels -  3


  1. The relatively balanced approach of QT shows it can be done (though there is still the small matter of audience selection - which seems to be all over the place) and bias on programmes like BBC Newsnight must therefore be the result of conscious efforts to be biased.

  2. Excellent work as always, Craig. The evidence is pretty clear that their numbers game is a sham. All those balanced segments with one from each side make the Beeboids complacent, content in the knowledge that they are dutifully balanced over time. So they don't even care the solo appearances are overwhelmingly lop-sided.

    The Question Time panels look better for them, yes, but Dimbleby hasn't been very fair, clearly favoring Remain with his challenges and audience moderation. The show is also proof that audiences behave differently when the BBC puts on real pressure not to rig them. I don't know if it's a case where someone different than usual comes in to supervise, like they did for that Leaders' QT before the general election, but the audiences are much more Leave-friendly in certain cities than you'd expect based on previous episodes from those locations.

    It's different when the BBC isn't phoning up student activist groups or teachers' unions because the producers feel there should be more of them on hand that evening, or reject applicants because their submitted question doesn't fit the theme they're going for that week.

    1. The Gove/Cameron specials were interesting too in that respect. I caught up on the Cameron one tonight and, though the Remain backers were the louder ones (i.e. the only ones who whooped!), the pro-Leave ones contingent looked at least as numerous and applauded heavily just as heavily.

    2. I just watched the Cameron episode. Brutal. Of course, as soon as I saw it was in Milton Keynes, I knew it would be bad for Cameron. But I have to give credit to the BBC. Dimbleby said the audience was evenly split between Out, In, and Not Sure (or evenly between the first two with a small portion of the latter). I don't think anyone except the Leavers asked a question. Maybe that one woman who told Cameron he wasn't getting the message out was for Remain, but that's it. Near the end there was one guy who asked a anti-democratic question about whether or not it was fair for all the pro-Remain young people to allow a Brexit result, harming their future against their will. The last question was a nervous pro-Remain question about what plans Cameron had to keep on fighting for more reform after a Remain result (at least I think that's what he meant). Delusional, but he seemed sincere. Cameron thought he was absolutely right, of course.

      It was brutal because of the questions, but also because it became more and more obvious that Cameron really has only talking points and no real convincing reasons to Remain. He's committed to the idea now, but it's not clear that he actually believes it. At times he seemed like someone stuck defending something he didn't believe, like a child caught in a lie and not wise enough to stop digging.

      I'm not sure what the point is of flouting the balance of the audience when only one side is allowed to ask almost all the questions. It was weird. In fact, Gove wasn't really challenged like this, and tended to give illuminating responses rather than spouting talking points for which the BBC could seriously have dubbed in audio from a stump speech three weeks ago and his lips wouldn't even be out of synch it's so rehearsed and banal.

      PS: I have to say Dimbleby was in rare form, and I mean that in a good way. Full credit to him in these, his best work since the Leaders' QT before the general election, where the audience predicted the result right there, but everyone missed it.

    3. PPS: I didn't think to pay attention at first, but for most of it I didn't see any wide audience shots during loud applause, so I can't tell if it's more people approving or a smaller group being louder. /tinfoilhat


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