Astute readers noticed something familiar about BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s review of the Labour Party manifesto. They were right.
Spot the difference
On the left is the review of the Labour manifesto by Laura Kuenssberg. And on the right is the Conservative Party slogan aimed at attacking the fully-costed manifesto (inaccurately).
It is the latest in a series of issues with Kuenssberg’s reporting on Labour. In January, the BBC Trust found the political editor guilty of misreporting an interview with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Their ruling stated:
The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved due impartiality.
But Kuenssberg was not censured by her boss at BBC News. Former Murdoch journalist James Harding (now Head of News at the BBC) rejected the findings, stating that:
While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding
BBC News reported on the leader of the opposition in the same way it would any other politician. It is striking that the Trust itself said there was ‘no evidence of bias’. Indeed, it also said the news report was ‘compiled in good faith’. The process is now concluded and BBC News formally notes the Trust’s finding.
Not only did Harding refuse to censure Kuenssberg, he applauded her. Praising her as:
an outstanding journalist and political editor with the utmost integrity and professionalism.
The tip of the iceberg
Sadly, the evidence suggests that Kuenssberg is a symptom of conservative bias at the BBC, rather than cause.
Beyond Harding and Kuenssberg, multiple studies have supported the assertion that this bias exists. A 2013 content analysis of the BBC by Cardiff University found that:
- The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power.
- On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespeople by more than 5:1 in 2007 and by 19:1 in 2012.
- BBC coverage of the 2008 financial crisis was dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators critical of the finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.
Turn it off
Such coverage has real-world impacts. It encourages vast swathes of the UK electorate to vote against their own interests; and against the interests of their loved ones and communities. Skewed coverage distorts our view of ourselves, each other, and what’s possible for us as a country. And that’s why it’s time to turn it off.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Read more from The Canary on the 2017 general election.
– Read and support news outlets who hold the powerful to account. Here are some we recommend. Please add more that you like in the comments:
The Canary, Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia,Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via YouTube Screengrab