Study: Tory voices on BBC four times as much as Labour

12:10 pm - August 23rd 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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A study by researchers at Cardiff University has found that in 2012 David Cameron outnumbered Ed Miliband by a factor of nearly four to one (53 vs 15) in reports on on immigration, the EU and religion across the BBC.

It also found that for reporting of all topics, Conservative politicians were featured more than 50% more often than Labour ones (24 vs 15) across the two time periods on the BBC News at Six.

It is usually the case that incumbents get more coverage than opposition politicians.

But the difference is remarkable. Labour leaders and ministers outnumbered Conservative shadow ministers by approximately two to one in 2007. By 2012 this has become four-to-one in favour of the Tories.

The evidence is even more stark for the BBC’s coverage of businesses versus trade unions:

In both 2007 and 2012, across all programming, business representatives received substantially more airtime on BBC network news (7.5% and 11.1% of source appearances) than they did on either ITV (5.9% and 3.8%) or Channel 4 News (2.4% and 2.2%). When we compare the representation of business with that of organised labour, the findings are even more striking.

On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespersons by more than five to one (11 vs 2) in 2007 and by 19 to one in 2012. 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. Considering the impact of the issues on the UK workforce, and the fact that trade unions represent the largest mass democratic organisations in civil society, such invisibility raises troubling questions for a public service broadcaster committed to impartial and balanced coverage.

Today programme banking crisis interviewees 15/9/2008 to 20/10/2008.


The range of debate was even narrower if we examine who the programme featured as interviewees in the two week period around the UK bank bailouts

More on the study at The Conversation

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

I already had guessed this, as it was reasonably obvious, it’s just nice to know the “official” statistics on it.
The Right seem to go on about the BBC having a left-wing bias, and I’ve always completely disagreed with this. I think the Left are almost being forced out of the BBC.

The Right is onto a winner here, of course. They complain about the BBC being Left-wing, the BBC ends up trying extra hard to represent Right-wing views, actual evidence based studies like this show the BBC are representing the Right too much…and the Right roundly ignore the fact. Repeat to infinity.

3. ex-Labour voter

And the BBC never lets Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell appear on Question Time. Alan Simpson was never allowed on either.

It then claimed that it was a matter of principle to have Nick Griffin on.

During the big union anti-austerity march the BBC had someone from the Taxpayer’s Alliance doing a running commentary all day.

Union barons? how many people have voted for the TA?

5. Paul peter Smith

The BBC’s only remaining function to any serious news consumer is to see what they’re not reporting on or just how blatantly they’re spinning what they do report. See almost all war/conflict coverage since Gulf war I, whoever was in government.

Research part paid for by the BBC, so can it be trusted.

Isn’t part of the problem that Ed Milliband is almost invisible. He seems to not have much to say that is newsworthy so why would any news organisation cover it.

This does not surprise me at all.

I think that the Conservatives and the right wing press have simply bullied the BBC into massive over representation.

It is of very great concern.

Or does Milliband appear to be invisible because the BBC excludes him so obviously? I am fairly sure his brother, the business bosses’ choice, would have been more visible because more palatable to the neoliberals, who run the BBC as much as they run pretty much everything else now.

6. dennis
You ask “Can it be trusted?” well it is evidence based on a review of factual data – why don’t you review the data it and look for the flaws – or see what data did not get reveiwed, and then let us know what you find? I did this with Centre for Policy Studies’s mumbo jumbo “scientific study”.

This approach is much more useful than dismissing the research solely on the basis of the paymaster

7. The Roofer
That thought occurred to me.

but ITV and Channel 4 are not showing the trend in over-representing the Tories.

And interestingly, ITV and Channel 4 have increased coverage of the Libdems, whereas BBC have decreased theirs.

12. Cwmrhydyceirw

@11. David Hodd
Commercial TV has a most definite over-representation of new cars and ‘Stepford Wives’ types praising skin creams though.

Hang on just a second…. If the numbers of guests defined by their political representation is now the measure for assessing bias then it must follow that Fox News is in fact not biased because they pretty much always have an equal number of people from both sides.

Of course that suggestion is absurd primarily because bias in a news room, be it Fox, the BBC, Sky or whoever is not defined on how many guests of each political persuasion they have but instead the positional status that the reporting comes from, the editorial priority given to stories and the confrontational position of interviewers when set against their interviewees.

The conclusions being drawn, under the ludicrously titled ‘evidence-based’ moniker are in fact bollocks and the sort of thing I’d expect to read on Usenet from some simpleton claiming Fox News is ‘fair and balanced’ because it always as a GOP and Democrat facing off.

14. jed goodright

what do you think the Glasgow Media Group have been saying for the last 25 years?????

Does nobody take any notice anymore?????????????

The labour party is dead

13. phil.
It is not a measure of bias. The study was about the number of representatives from various socio/economic/political groups.
Thank you for your non-partisan contribution.

16. Cymrhydyceirw

@13. phil
Where in the report does it mention bias?

12. Cwmrhydyceirw

– and ITV also have a over-representation of people who favour a particular brand of cereal / washing powder / beer etc. BBC really poor at giving these people a voice.

thank goodness

18. tigerdarwin

A good friend of mine works for the beep at a senior production level.

Don’t bother complaining as the beep sees anoying and being bias against the Left and the liberal agenda as a success. .

It is deliberate policy.

A very full comprehensive study – of a small group of guests on the BBC, mainly politicians. What about all the other guests. What about the presenters. What about the point of view of a programme.

If the BBC is so right wing, why is the Guardian the main newspaper read by its staff?

Try harder.

Your article begs the question that television appearances by Ed Miliband help the Labour Party. Were the researchers able to support this premise?

21. pictishbeastie

I don’t know what you’re all complaining about, there’s little or no difference between the policies of the three main London based parties anyway. You should try being a supporter of Scottish independence. The BBC has even admitted that they’re not impartial in the independence debate.

22. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Maybe the left haven’t had anything interesting to say.

The sad fact is that the Beeb used to be a critical voice to those in power… now it just cuddles up to whoever is in power to ensure that they get the best deal they can with the licence fee.

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