Friday, 7 April 2017

Stopwatches and calculators

Over at The Conservative Woman David Keighley has posted a thoroughgoing critique of Nick Robinson's remarkable Radio Times intervention in the BBC bias debate, wherein the Today presenter essentially called for people like us to stop monitoring the BBC and simply trust the corporation's editorial judgements and its "bias towards understanding".

It's a very tendentious piece, evidently provoked by two things: (1) those 70+ pro-Brexit MPs who criticised the BBC in an open letter and (2) that News-watch study which showed a massive imbalance towards negativity in Today's business coverage.

Nick Robinson's criticism of the use of "stopwatches and calculators" is, of course, a familiar BBC trope. Senior BBC figures have been rejecting unhelpful statistical studies of their outputs for years by dismissing "stopwatches and calculators", so Nick is treading a well-trodden BBC track....

....except that (a) the incoming BBC chairman Sir David Clementi has himself called for "scientific" monitoring of bias and (b) the BBC's impartiality reviews over the last decade have themselves used studies that employ "stopwatches and calculators" (from the ex-BBC/far-left-dominated Cardiff University media department), so it's clearly been OK to use statistical studies of BBC bias if the conclusions help the BBC and counter the wrong kind of statistical studies - i.e. the ones they don't want the public to believe.

If (and acting under whose authority?) Nick Robinson is telling us to 'get over it' and stop worrying about BBC bias and just trust the BBC to 'do the right thing', then he's frankly pretty much asking for a blank cheque. 

And he's not going to get it. 

1 comment:

  1. Craig, I think your Interruptometer is an invaluable tool of analysis.

    Also, comparing how the BBC deals with stories compared with ITV, Sky and major newspapers is very instructive. We've seen time and time again how they either bury some stories or over-promote others.

    These are valid measures of bias.

    Even things like vocal intonation introducing various items could be tested because there are objective ways of measuring intonation.

    The BBC will resist ALL objective measures...wonder why?

    Of course, rather than obsessing about bias, a much better approach is to radically restructure how the BBC operates.

    I suggest:

    1. Direct election of the BBC management board by licence fee payers.

    2. Independent panels for all senior BBC appointments including a range of senior media personnel.

    3. Changing the licence fee to a pin-accessed "opt out" subscription (ie you are legally obliged to pay it unless you opt out, in which case you don't receive the service).