The Centre for Policy Studies and their bizarre report on BBC bias

2:02 pm - August 16th 2013

by Tim Fenton    

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Earlier this week, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) gave a heads-up that it was about to release a study that would show, by means of rigorous statistical analysis, that the BBC was just as biased to the left as the CPS and its supporters had always said.

This was good news for the organisation: it would have been most unfortunate had it come out the other way. Presumably, they want to see it cut down to size because the way it serves up news is not in accordance with right-leaning ideological standards.

But, as I pointed out at the time, the use of the Guardian and Telegraph as equivalent left-of-centre and right-of-centre comparators effectively invalidates the whole exercise on the spot. No evidence is offered in support of this contention, and I doubt that any ever will.

Just because the Guardian, or any other publication, is not right-wing does not make it left-wing, and excusing the characterisation bysaying “yeah, but everybody knows that” does not cut it. Nor does the simplistic categorisation of the Telegraph as right-wing sufficiently explain its highly selective journalism, which in any case often attacks those on the right, as well as the left (pace Nadine Dorries).

Then we get to the list of think tanks, which the CPS report has ranked in an order which, it is alleged, goes from Left-leaning to Right-leaning. This, too, is fatally flawed: how otherwise can the Global Warming Policy Foundation be found to the left of the Fabian Society? And how does the IEA get to be more left leaning than the Social Market Foundation and Centre Forum?

It gets worse: the ASI and Henry Jackson Society are shown as being less right-leaning than IPPR, which, the last time I looked, was centre-left in orientation. In fact, in their preview of the report, the CPS calls IPPR left leaning.

So forget all the number crunching, I think this analysis is built on sand.

No matter, though, the pundits at places like the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs love it, typical of the responses being that from Janet Daley, scoffing “The BBC says anyone who accuses it of bias – is biased”.

She calls the CPS report “impeccably researched”, and then includes the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) in the list of think tanks covered by it. The CPS report does not include the TPA in its list of think tanks, and nor does it so much as mention it in passing. Good of Ms Daley to let us know that she didn’t bother reading the report half as thoroughly as she’d like her readers to think.

A longer version is here.

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments

Janet Daley doesn’t say the TPA is in the list of organisations covered in the report.

The problem with this study is that it is wholly unnecessary. The BBC is obviously a left-wing organisation, and ’twas ever thus.

Demos more left than Compass? RedPublica more left than the Fabians?

Give me a break.

4. Man On Clapham Omnibus

Now when I get sunburnt I shall blame the left! Bastards!

But its good to see that Bill Turnbull has been vindicated as neutered.I suspected as much.

It seems Latham cannot overcome what he observes in others: “bias is inevitably in the eye of the beholder”. Sadly his paper has no null hypothesis.

He mistakes apparent “correlation” with an arbitrary benchmark with “causation”: the demonstrated left wing bias is due to a liberal groupthink which is corroborated by the factoid that the BBC buys more copies of the Guardian & Independent than it buys copies of the Sun.

The CPS report is bogus psuedo-science worthy of L Ron Hubbard.

“I can prove anything by statistics except the truth”
said George Canning. Sadly, nothing has been disproved here, which is why it has been used as part of a political whispering campaign, instead of being submitted to a peer reviewed journal for review before publication.

6. Man On Clapham Omnibus

2. vimothy

For your info, the boys down the lab have conducted a peer reviewed,double blind,longitudinal study together with a multivariate analysis on you using comparative TDB* data and found you have a 99.9% correlation within 2 standard errors.

Congratulations its official – You are a twat.

* T.W.A.T Database

7. Man On Clapham Omnibus

5. David Hodd Tim Fenton

Do you know who this Latham guy is?


Implicit from 2nd para of her post.


He’s the bloke who wrote the CPS report.


No, it’s not implicit anywhere in her post.

It would be possible to make that assumption if you read her post quickly, but then, on finding out the TPA isn’t mentioned in the report, you might go back to re-read what she wrote and see that she doesn’t actually say what you had assumed.

Instead you seem to have decided that it is evidence she didn’t read the report.

10. Luis Enrique

NIESR, home of Jonathan Portes, to the right of the ASI? And the IFS?

‘The Centre for Policy Studies has published an impeccably researched report which offers objective statistical evidence of the BBC’s persistent habit of describing (which is to say, effectively dismissing) the proposals of think tanks such as the IEA, the Centre for Social Justice, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and the CPS itself as emanating from “Rightwing” organisations’

Impeccably researched?

12. Gleephart Blogwatch

Non-Taxpayers’ Alliance is a better description of that organisation.

Right wing think tankers are not honest people and I think we all know that.

@7 Man On Clapham Omnibus
According to his linkedin page, he has done no real work (paid or otherwise), volunteered for HSBC for 4 months and another 4 months volunteering Frontier Economics. The rest of the time he has been studying at college or teaching less experienced students the benefits of his experience.

He has one previous publication on why UK should cut capital gains tax. As far as I can tell, he has no peer reviewed publications.

His Cambridge Uni page is surprisingly empty

Whilst checking out this response, I came across this great quote, from Nathan Myhrvold which seems pertinent:

“Economists want their discipline to be a science, and they have nailed down a few precepts, but many of their debates are still clouded by ideology.”

I’ve never quite understood this issue of the BBC being “left-wing”. Personally I think its ramped up by the right-wing press to put pressure on the BBC to be slightly right-leaning. But bias is bias by its very nature, so it’s natural someone on the left or right will hone in on what they consider to be biased against their point of view…

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