Thursday 2 November 2017

Have you forgotten something, Cardiff Uni?

As regular readers will know, these researchers are from the same stable that the BBC relies on for its major impartiality reviews and they've previously produced reports 'finding' that the BBC, though broadly impartial, has a right-wing and anti-EU bias. (Hmm).

This latest one is a study of the BBC's use of think tanks and 'finds' that the BBC cites more right-wing than left-wing think tanks. QED.

The detail looks fascinating but within just one minute of looking in earnest at its data and hunting for its figures on the Resolution Foundation - the think tank I most associate with the BBC because I hear it mentioned a lot on the BBC (especially Todayand have written about the BBC's coverage of it before - guess what? I couldn't find any mention of the Resolution Foundation among the large list of think tanks they've monitored. 

Yes, it's not there. They've forgotten it!

So within a minute of digging deeper my initial impressions that their study looked impressive melted into air, into thin air.

How on earth could they forget the Resolution Foundation? As I say, it gets a lot of mentions on the BBC. (Check that link for yourselves if you fancy trying to doubt it). 

Though it has David Willetts as its executive chairman, the think tank is generally characterised as 'left-leaning', even by the BBC, as well as by the FT, Buzzfeed, The Times, etc, and if Justin and Stephen had remembered them then, using their own criterion, they would have to have included them in their 'Left or left-leaning' column, and that might have had a very significant impact on their results.

Professors Lewis and Cushion have surely made a fatal blunder in forgetting to include the Resolution Foundation. It's like conducting a study of bias based on the questions of Radio 4 current affairs presenters and forgetting, say, Mark Mardell. 

Please take a look at the report for yourselves, especially TABLE 2: Political classification of think tanks mentioned on BBC news, and see what you make of it.


  1. Using counting thinktanks as the metric for measuring bias is of course a gigantic cherry pick.
    Last time they used something like "80% of stats quoted on BBC polical progs come from Conservatives" ie Tories actually gave numbers whereas Libdreamers just gave dreams.
    I found a nice graphic for my tweet.

  2. I suppose if you went down the university bar, drank seven pints of the strongest lager on offer, dropped a tab of acid, snorted a line of coke, went for a two mile swim in Cardiff Bay and then smoked three joints whilst reading trying to memorise all the share prices lsited in the Financial Times, you might reach the conclusion that the BBC is biased to the right wing. Not to suggest that is what they have done. :)

  3. Some of its classifications are obviously wrong, betraying the bias of its authors. For example, the Global Warming Policy Foundation is neither right or left leaning per se, having people from both main parties as its trustees. It is essentially concerned with scientific rather than political issues. The whole concept of a “High Pay Centre” is surely left-leaning even if it does include some individual Conservatives.

  4. By their own words let them be judged.

  5. If you are coming from the far left almost anything else is going to be seen to be on the political right. The problem I have of this is that they seem to have invented a whole set of criteria to determine bias in think tanks that self identify as political neural. Counting instances of apparently “progressive” words out of context in reports is pretty tenuous stuff. Even examining the political backgrounds of members is not necessarily reliable without a much greater understanding of how any particular think tank operates. The section about political influences from what they would see as a right wing press is frankly laughable. There is also a completely separate issue of how much the BBC is actually influenced by any of these so-call right wing think tanks.

    I wait with interest for Jeremy Corbyn, who seems so preoccupied with quoting other people at PMQ, to cite this report as evidence of an evil right wing plot.

  6. The only reliable statistic I know is that 6 out of 7 dwarves are not Happy.


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