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back to article Don't tell the D-G! BBC-funded study says Beeb is 'too right wing'

A study funded by the BBC into editorial bias has concluded that it isn't Left Wing enough: it's too friendly to business, and far too hostile to the European Union. The "voice of the licence-fee payer", the BBC Trust, commissioned the study, and gave the job to academic Mike Berry of the Glasgow Media Group - the latter a Dave …

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Anonymous Coward

A study into secularism headed by The Pope concludes there are too many Atheists and they have too little faith in God.

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Dispelling fears following last years report by Richard Dawkins that the world has too many Christians and not enough Atheists.

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Anonymous Coward

Better make sure the BBC broadcasts card-carrying god-botherers every day ...

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do popes shit in the woods

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Joke

"do popes shit in the woods"

Only when confronted by a Catholic bear.

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Mathew 7:7

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you"

Or: Only open a can of worms if you plan to go fishing.

The "news" here isn't so much that the Beeb has a particular political leaning, it's that the BBC Trust chose to pay an organisation that would find that they had such a bias. I'm sure that if they'd chosen another organisation to review their output they could have obtained a completely different outcome.

The legal profession has a saying: Never ask a question unless you know the answer. I would hope that the BBC Trust has at least that much political nous, and that they got no surprises at all with the results that they paid for.

The only other question that comes to mind is: why would they have done this? Charter renewal coming up in a few years. perhaps?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mathew 7:7

"...the results they paid for."

Except they didn't pay for anything.. this latest display of glorious Marxist masturbation was funded, as always, by we the plebs. All the more revolting as a result. So now we're paying the Bureau of Brainwashing and Compliance to pay sympathetic cronies to spew sycophantic propaganda at us. I feel sick.

Perhaps it's time to do away with the licence fee. Let's see what would happen to that Bolshevist rhetoric budget if the BBC suddenly had to exist in the real (commercial) world, like the rest of us. Conceited hypocrites.

</indignant rant>

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Re: Mathew 7:7

Having seen the rubbish they spout in the USA, i'd prefer the not perfect "independent" news from the BBC.

If it went commercial they'd be overly keen to ensure they broke the news first and more senstionalist reporting to attract viewers. No thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mathew 7:7

"...they'd be overly keen to ensure they broke the news first and more senstionalist reporting to attract viewers."

No change there then. At the same time, ending the free cash gravy train could instantly remedy the corporation's dole scrounger "socialist" entitlement complex while simultaneously loosening the politico's malignant grip on the purse strings. Sounds like a win to me. Not necessarily an advertising funded model but certainly something independent of tax revenue and treasury control.... there MUST be a BETTER way to do it... can't imagine less gov meddling appealing to the government du jour though, so won't ever happen.

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Anonymous Coward

The BBC? Right-wing? Maybe if you're Trotsky or Lenin...

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Anonymous Coward

The BBC? Right-wing? Maybe if you're Trotsky or Lenin...

and here's the explanation

the BBC Trust, commissioned the study, and gave the job to veteran Marxist academic Mike Berry

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Anonymous Coward

The BBC Trust, aren't they run by that famous Marxist Chris Patten?

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Suspect Beeb is left wing ?

...let's find out by asking Nick Griffin-

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What a Spin!

I've specifically asked for this via Twitter, so now I feel compelled to comment. My tweet was:

"Hey @regvulture, would you care to cover this http://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-how-biased-is-the-bbc-17028 …? On #BBC bias. Would be interesting to read @AndrewOrlowski's spin on it!"

I should be more careful with what I ask for: I did get a lot of spin!

The Good:

Andrew does include a hint (just!) of the raw numbers collected by the study. At least we know where some of the information published here is coming from. Actually, I must say that just the fact that Andrew decided to comment this study is good by itself, the guy is shameless & fearless.

The Bad:

- Source was not linked. Why on earth? Does elReg pay less if you include one or two links?

- Criticising the methodology is usually a good thing. But Andrew is smarter, he probably knows that the method used in this study accepts to be limited in order to be as objective as possible. Hence he didn't mention this at all, but of course commentards did. The issue is: if you just count how much exposure representatives from different (opposing) areas get, this measure can be controlled and replicated by anyone, so the researchers will probably avoid to cheat, as they can be easily caught. Of course, this method is limited in scope, as one could give some air time to person X just to demonstrate how absurd his/her positions are. But, given a large enough sample, it is reasonable to expect this kind of situation to be fairly irrelevant (at least, if/when a broadcaster needs to appear unbiased). The alternative method, trying to judge/measure the hypothetical spin, is of course highly dependent on subjectivity so would be wide open to (well deserved) criticism.

- Attack the messenger: "veteran Marxist academic Mike Berry of the Glasgow Media Group". Veteran: he appears to have published his first book for GMG in 2004. 9 years ago, so how do you qualify for the Veteran title? Bah. Academic: good, this one seems true. Marxist: no idea where this comes from, Marxism != leftish. "Of the GMG" how does Andrew know that MB is still part of GMG? His page at Cardiff uni suggests the opposite, and that's all that I could find online.

The Ugly:

- No mention on methods, let alone their pros & cons.

- No overall figures from the study (naturally: they happen to be convincing!), only some quotes clearly framed to suggest bias. But of course, opinions from Mark Thompson and Peter Oborne are more reliable and relevant than hard numbers. That's how you "Tell The truth", the Andrew Orlowski's way.

Well done Andrew, you just published a short example on how it is possible to spin just about anything. And sadly, on how readers are eager to buy it.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: What a Spin!

The study link was left out by accident: I've added it.

C.

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Re: What a Spin!

Ah, thanks, a little better then. And thanks for the article in all cases, I don't know if my tweet had anything to do with it, but I like to think it did.

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Re: What a Spin!

@ SergioG Let me throw almost ALL of your post back at you. You criticize AO for not including numbers and methodology details then add none of your own. So after a lengthy missive readers are none the wiser. Why didn't you include the numbers? Maybe because 'they happen to be convincing!' to AO's perspective?

The BBC is a train wreck of an organization (and I include the Trust here too). The 'study' amply illustrates the point. Why would a review like this be handed to just one person? The 'methodology' fails right there. Regardless of the validity (or otherwise) of Mike Berry's approach, it is impossible to escape the criticism of bias of any report that is written by one person or group of people. Scientific studies are conducted and then results are subject to verification by independent researchers. But this is a funding limitation. In an ideal world, multiple, parallel studies would be conducted to see if they all reach the same conclusion.

In this case there is no material funding limitation. An organization that routinely overpays severance to it buddies, that squanders millions and millions on buildings it doesn't need or projects that are out of control does not need to be concerned about spending a few extra 10s of thousands to make sure it's reviews can justifiably claim to be beyond reproach. But that's not what happened. So the review is far from beyond reproach regardless of how this specific report was written.

We, the licence fee payers, cannot know the motivation of the Trust to handle the issue in the way they have done. But with reason we can be expected to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to the findings and reject them when they conflict with our own experience.

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Re: What a Spin!

@ Sirius Lee: OK, I'll bite.

Sorry for the late reply, I have only noticed this now.

"Why didn't you include the numbers?"

Short answer. Because my lunch break only lasts so long, and reporting the details of a study for free, so to improve somebody else's published articles, is not in my job description.

My point is that AO reported about a study, interpreting what the study says and what it _really_means_ on the basis of what he already believes is true: that the BBC is biased in favour of lefties or something like that. This isn't good reporting, because it didn't discuss the evidence. At best, it is bad journalism, but it is also likely that it is pure spin, and I felt obliged to point it out (since I've called for it).

If you want to apply a healthy does of scepticism (I'm all in favour) you can read the study excerpt linked in the article (thanks to diodesign), or the full report linked in a comment below. Go see for yourself and you'll gain an informed insight. It takes longer? Yes, that's why we would like to have more good reporting and less spin.

The rest of your post qualifies as your own opinions and I will not challenge them. I hope my position is clear, if it isn't, I'll live with it!

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Wrong question

It's not left vs right, it's top vs bottom. Too often the only viewpoints presented are the government and the people saying the government isn't doing enough.

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Re: Wrong question

That's because the people in the middle either have no sound-bite-able position, or don't care about the argument. Take any coverage of the evils of WINTER SNOW or SUMMER HEAT. Most people they try to interview on the street don't give them the sensational opinions they were looking for.

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When I joined the Beeb

Lo those many years ago... the initial paperwork included questions asking whether I was, or ever had been, a member of the communist party. They asked the same of my parents... never said whether it was a good thing or a bad thing!

I was always impressed by the way that *with absolutely no shift in editorial emphasis* the BBC was always proclaimed as far too left/right, opposing the current government and starting the morning after an election.

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Anonymous Coward

BBC- Right wing?! Best laugh I've had all week.

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Baffles Me

Putting aside the article's main thrust, here's a question: what the hell organization appoints its own outside auditor? Comparing the pains taken to appoint external auditors and ombudsmen are normal organizations to "let's hire a guy, using our bias, to determine what our bias is, ignore that he himself is open about having a bias, and have him work both alone and seemingly without clear professional standards, that'll get 'er done!" makes me very sad for the British taxpayer.

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Re: Baffles Me

Guess it must be different over there but here in the US you almost always get to select your own auditor. Even if a review of operations/departments is court ordered you generally still get to pick who does it.

I worked for a company that got called out on financial shenanigans once and we were ordered to have a 3rd party audit team embedded in the company for 36 months. The company chose not only our traditional financial auditor but got the very same team that did our quarterly and annual audits.

It's great for keeping prying eyes out of your business. Picking your own is also great if you need formal outside opinions in order to make major changes within an operation but have a reluctant board or investors. It's really awful for transparency and completely worthless for regulatory compliance, but that's the way it is.

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Re: Baffles Me

Well maybe you need to hire someone to play the Devil's Advocate. Maybe you don't agree with their points but if they're provocative enough it might cause you to alter your own stance.

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Re: Baffles Me

"Putting aside the article's main thrust, here's a question: what the hell organization appoints its own outside auditor?"

A self-righteous navel-gazing socialist one.

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WTF?

Re: Baffles Me

what the hell organization appoints its own outside auditor?

Who the fuck else would appoint an external auditor, their competitors? Do you think ITV might commission an audit of the BBC? Having an audit is a self examination process

Engage brain, then post.

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Any update from the same source on ursine defecation habits?

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Yes, Bears are far to right wing in there toilet habits, and the Pope is far to capitalist in his religious views.

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Why would the Unions

Have any say on immigration? And, more to the point, aren't the unions more likely to adopt the more right-wing "THEY TURK UR JURBS!" stance?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why would the Unions

The idea that opposition to immigration is a purely right-wing phenomenon is one of the great lies of our age. Most opposition to the uncontrolled immigration we've faced since Blair comes from the working classes, who face the most competition for employment from incoming immigrants. They can be pin-wearing socialists or true-blue tories, but they'll be almost completely united on this matter: immigration reduces their opportunity to find work by increasing the labour pool at the low end of the market, and at the same time it deflates wages - they will be willing to work for less because the alternative is not working at all.

The union leadership are a different kettle of fish. They tend to be snotty lazy bastards who don't give a toss for the rank and file and support whatever gets them a bigger slice of the pie.

It stopped being about "left" and "right" decades ago. In fact it's probably never been about left and right. Our ruling class all inhabit the same tiny bubble, along with the BBC and the rest of the media establishment. They're quite content to pit "left" against "right" for as long as necessary to keep us from realising that we're being ruled by the same tiny claque that has always ruled us.

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Devil

Left, Right, Left, Right: Marching to the establishment..l.

Personally, I'm of the view that the BeeB is simply full of middle-class toadies who (Left & Right) simply ensure their continued access to information by slavishly following the message PR delivered by whoever is in Government....it goes a long way to explaining the perennial view that 'conservatives' think its a Marxist hotbed and 'socialists' think its a Right-Wing think-tank.

The recent reporting on Syria is a case in point (being equally supported/panned by both left & right) as it eerily reflects the "we have proof but we cannot show you coz it's a secret", Iraq-War approach by Labour Gov, expertly re-hashed by this Conservative Gov; laced with a complete disregard of the wider Publics' scathing distaste for the whole affair (as evidenced by the fact that neither BBC TV or Radio covered it's OWN Commissioned survey last week that found over 70% of the public were against military engagement - they did have a small article on the website tho').

Left? Right? A plague on any house that isn't in Power is, I think, the reality

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I'm now having a nostalgia for the seventies.

Lets have a winter of discontent. Glaswegian trades unionists on the telly! Rubbish in the streets. Marksist rhetoric. Power cuts. Prog. rock then punk. Everything was better back then.

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Re: I'm now having a nostalgia for the seventies.

Contrast that with where we are, and where we're going in a few years:

Rubbish on the telly, Glaswegian trade unionists in the streets. Progressive rhetoric. Marxist power cuts.

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Left + Right

So we have right wingers saying the Beeb is left wing and we have a left winger saying the Beeb is right wing. So the reality is that the BBC when compared to all the other media is pretty much neutral in the scheme of things.

In reality I think that most people would believe that the BBC is good at playing the devil's advocate when dealing with politicians and endeavours not to overtly upset the political party who control the licence fee.

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The report is here (PDF); and some commentary (by Mike Berry) here. The problem is that he simply counts the number of times different types of individual and organisation are interviewed, and because there are more on the 'right' than the 'left' (as defined by whom?). the conclusion is the Beeb are biased to the right. But if I interviewed two Conservatives, introducing them as pernicious bastards treading down the workers, to every one Labour, introduced as a hero of the working class, would I also be guilty of right-wing bias?

The trouble with the Beeb is that far too many of its staff exist in a leafy suburban bubble of Guardian-reading, bien pensant chit-chat. Although they would honestly deny any bias, they never socialise with anyone who might disturb their subconscious world view. You can see the same phenomenon in many a Senior Common Room.

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So what he is saying is that the BBC too often interviews the current government and in a time of financial crisis interviews bankers and financiers...

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Precisely, one wonders who Mike Berry would have them interview on a piece about financial matters... a representative of the "Inclusive, one-eyed lesbian mothers against fracking alliance of coalitions" perhaps?

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Megaphone

The researcher has a clear POV: are the findings to be ignored then?

Are the points raised are utterly without merit because one doesn't like the POV of those giving them? The ideal would have been to commission a second report at the same time from one of the plethora of right-wing-think-tanks ('charities' apparently!) and then compare and contrast the two.

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The problem with the BBC is that for the last decade it has hosed money up the wall for no good reason, and funding this study is a cast-iron example.

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"Funded by the BBC"

Do we know how much this cost?

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Oh God here we go again!

Half the time it's too left wing, the other half it's too right wing.

If you can upset both sides it cannot be doing too bad a job.

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Re: Oh God here we go again!

I watch Al Jazzera for World News. Doesn't seem to be as pro Arab as you might expect. (And you get the government propaganda angle normally whether you like it or not). Another good thing is it is never boring whereas the BBC dwell on the same things all the time.

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Sometimes the BBC is to careful in its political correctness and its "in the interests of fairness" - when a Boffin explains why a new science discovery is pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of science, why do they also have to have a trick cyclist come on and argue it's the will of the Unicorns. (I exaggerate for effect, but seriously, watch them do it - maybe not News at Ten, but certainly on Sunday morning).

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They would say that, wouldn't they?

I know many people who consider the BBC to be biased against their own political leanings - the leftwingers think it is right wing, and vice versa. It also seems likely to me that a person with strong political opinions is more likely to view an approximately neutral stance as further down the spectrum of bias against their own views. And for this reason, I understand that many might be suspicious about someone with an acknowledged political axe to grind creating a report, certainly I'm tempted to agree with the first poster about commissioning the Pope to write a report on atheists.

Nevertheless, evidence is evidence, and I think we need to surpress our instinctive reactions somewhat and challenge the report with further evidence rather than simply dismissing it with a 'they would say that wouldn't they" argument. In particular, the statement quoted does seem to have some basis in truth:

"On the issues of immigration and the EU in 2012, out of 806 source appearances, not one was allocated to a representative of organised labour," the study concludes. In coverage of the banking crisis "opinion was almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices".

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Re: They would say that, wouldn't they?

> a person with strong political opinions is more likely to view an approximately neutral stance as further down the spectrum of bias against their own views.

If you really think that's the only reason some people think the BBC is left-wing, I recommend reading some of Peter Sissons's thoughts on the matter, all based on his experience of working as their news anchor. They're not neutral. They're the broadcast wing of The Guardian. Which is hardly surprising, since they recruit almost exclusively via The Guardian's jobs pages.

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Shock and Horror - Relevant Experts Were Used!

"On the issues of immigration and the EU in 2012, out of 806 source appearances, not one was allocated to a representative of organised labour," the study concludes. In coverage of the banking crisis "opinion was almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices".

I ran a personal study and found that not one of those was allocated to an astronaut. We can thus safely conclude the BBC is anti-science.

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Re: They would say that, wouldn't they?

"On the issues of immigration and the EU in 2012, out of 806 source appearances, not one was allocated to a representative of organised labour,"

If anything this proves a left wing bias, they don't want anyone airing their doubts about the EU and unfettered immigration could have a negative effect on the local workforce.

Nial

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They would say that, wouldn't they?

Peter Sissons - who conveniently kept his thoughts to himself until he had retired, and then expressed them as he did in order to get a deal with the Daily Mail to serialise his book. Hardly an "unbiased" contribution to the debate.......??? As for the old Guardian chestnut - The Guardian is the only paper to run a decent media section every week. The first rule of advertising being to target your audience, good old Auntie is therefore using licence payers money wisely, by placing the adverts where they are most likely to be read!!

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Re: They would say that, wouldn't they?

"On the issues of immigration and the EU in 2012, out of 806 source appearances, not one was allocated to a representative of organised labour,"

That is probably because most trade unions would denounce Labour for importing cheap labour and undercutting their members.The BBC don't want to upset their chums.

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