BBC impartiality in tatters as report reveals corporation relies on Tories for statistics

David Cameron was criticised for claiming that 43% of EU migrants claim benefits of some kind in the first four years they are in the UK [Image: Reuters].

David Cameron was criticised for claiming that 43% of EU migrants claim benefits of some kind in the first four years they are in the UK [Image: Reuters].

So there you have it.

The BBC relies on the Conservative Party for 73 per cent of its statistics, fails to mention the context in which those statistics are set, and fails to challenge them where necessary.

I know this is nothing new to anybody but…

So much for BBC impartiality.

The BBC has a “high dependency” on the governing party for statistics, with Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of all statistics it cites from politicians, according to a report by the corporation’s governing body.

A BBC Trust report investigating the impartiality of the way the BBC cites statistics also said that the corporation’s journalism needed to do more to “go beyond the headlines” and be more wary of reporting figures “straight from a press release”.

The wide-ranging 84-page report, Making Sense of Statistics, used the Cardiff School of Journalism to conduct an in-depth study of mentions of statistics on the BBC, including looking at specific issues such as migration, health and the junior doctors’ strike. It did not cover the period of the EU referendum.

“It is reasonable to expect the BBC to cover statements which the UK or devolved governments make,” said the report, which was led by the former head of the Government Statistical Service, Dame Jil Matheson.

“However, as Cardiff’s content analysis points out, it does make it vital that those statements are challenged where necessary so that the impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of political affairs is not affected.”

Source: ‘BBC has high dependency on Tory government for statistics’ | Media | The Guardian


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16 thoughts on “BBC impartiality in tatters as report reveals corporation relies on Tories for statistics

  1. elspethparris

    When I used to write for Gartner, I wasn’t allowed to quote from websites. I was expected to provide analysis of the information I picked up. I would expect the BBC to do the same.

  2. Neilth

    I’m totally unsurprised. As I’ve said on various threads the standard of journalism in the UK has collapsed to a parlous state. Most of the media seem to rely on press releases and no one fact-checks the releases; they just repeat them word for word with no critical analysis. The same applies to reporting on science where the attention-grabbing headline is more important than what the research actually finds. It’s close to impossible to find out the real truth.

  3. Dez

    Not just the BBC most of the papers print the press releases as is without doing any research or taking advise from alternative views.

  4. mohandeer

    I’ve been making the same criticisms of both the BBC and the Guardian for years. It’s quite a joke though, that the Guardian would carry an article critical of the BBC’s lack of impartiality given that particular gutter press production’s propagandist platform.

  5. John

    Aren’t the BBC still in negotiations with central government over the terms of the licence fee? I suspect this is why they are playing ball with the Tory government.
    Whatever the BBC may have been in the past, today it is a lackey of government.

  6. Martin Pritchard

    Of course if you try to get any information out of the BBC they’ll dig their heels in, claim it’s part of their “journalism, art or literature” exemption from the Freedom of Information Act and refuse to answer.
    I’ve set up a petition to get the JAoL clause removed from the FOI Act, clicking my name will take you straight to it.

  7. Brian

    Well you could call it lazy reporting, ineptitude or a host of other names, the fact is, the bias is ingrained.

  8. Kenneth Billis

    According to the BBC tonight (Wednesday) the Southern Railways dispute is about one thing: “Who closes the doors”. There, that saves us looking further and justifies slagging off the RMT.

  9. Tim

    This has always been the case. The thing is that before David Cameron governments did not lie as frequently or distort the facts so much and therefore the data they provided to the media was mostly honest and reliable. Under Cameron and Osborne and particularly Iain Duncan Smith when Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, dissembling and fabricating became the new normal rather than the exception to the rule. Only time will tell if anything changes under Theresa May. I’m no fan of the woman but can’t believe that anybody could utter as many falsehoods and corrupted facts as Cameron did personally and permitted with others during his sorry stint in 10 Downing Street.

    This shallow spiteful trickster fully deserved the ignominious end he suffered.

  10. Joan Edington

    As you say, Mike, the people we mix with have known this for years. Unfortuneately there are still, I would think, a majority who still look to the BBC for “the truth”. They have done very little in the way of research on most of what they produce as statistical news, possibly because they have stripped staff to the bones.

    If they can’t get all the information we want from reputable sources, they should at least make sure the sources used are made very clear when quoted. If figures have come from a right-wing think tank, they should not simply be steted as “fact”. If they are supposed to have come from the ONS, they should be clarified as the governments analysis of those statistics (usually manipulated beyond recognition).

    Obviously it would be ideal if they could properly research all statistics before broadcast but that will not happen. At least they are starting to admit the bias.

  11. rsambrook

    You have misread the statistics. It is 73% of POLITICAL (not all sources) across ALL UK broadcast news outlets (not just the BBC). I’m sure you can still have a critical view of that – but you should try to get the statistics right on a piece about, well, statistics!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I haven’t misread the statistics; you’ve misread the article. It’s clear enough what we’re discussing here.

  12. Jack Irving

    Gideon Osborne’s “friend” (Nudge-nudge) is the director general of the bbc,,this is another reason why Osborne was NEVER held to account for his abysmal performance as an alleged chancellor. It also explains why Camoron was never held to account for Pig-gate or the Panama Papers scandal.

  13. Roy Beiley

    Not to include the referendum period? Wasn’t that when the BBC set up a special unit which claimed to have “verified” the statistical info given out by Leavers and Remainers? Did they refute the infamous claim by Leavers that we paid £350m per day to EU? If so I never saw it.

Comments are closed.