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A study by Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies has revealed that the BBC has a “high dependency” on the Conservative Party for statistics. The study was used by the BBC Trust to conduct a report called ‘Making Sense of Statistics’, and confirmed that the Tories are responsible for three-quarters of the statistics that the BBC receives from political sources.
The BBC Trust report brings the impartiality of the BBC into question, and states that the corporation should not be so content with reporting statistics “straight from a press release”. It also concluded that the BBC has failed to “go beyond the headlines”.
The report went on to say that:
“The content analysis demonstrates that there is an especially high number of political figures providing statistical information on BBC [output],” said the report. “And Conservative politicians represented nearly three-quarters (73%) of these statistical references.”
“BBC journalists need the confidence and skills to go beyond headlines, and to challenge misleading claims.”
“It is reasonable to expect the BBC to cover statements which the UK or devolved governments make. […] 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.”
Sadly, it seems that the BBC’s impartiality in their coverage of political affairs has already been disputed by the report. Cardiff University’s analysis found that there were “many instances” where quotes and statistics given to the broadcaster from the Conservative government were reported without challenge on “any fundamental level”.
Moreover, the BBC Trust has also signalled that the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg is also guilty of a lack of balance in her coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Their inquiry into her reporting of Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the Paris attacks found that she inaccurately reporting his comments – and by implication misled the public about the views of the Labour leader. Corbyn recently told the BBC to stop bringing attention to “fake news” – after they brought up the debunked rumour that he was soon to quit as leader of the Labour Party.
This is not the first time that the BBC has been in hot water over their coverage of Jeremy Corbyn. Their Panorama broadcast called ‘Jeremy Corbyn: Labour’s Earthquake’ was derided as a “complete hatchet job” by a source in the Labour leader’s camp – and contained a shocking amount of inaccuracies and mistruths. The backlash was so big that the BBC refused to reveal the number of complaints it had received about the show.
Similarly, researchers have even threatened to sue the BBC over their biased coverage of Jeremy Corbyn. A study by the Media Reform Coalition found that the BBC were neglecting their charter, operating agreement and commitment to impartiality – and that there was a “strong tendency” within the BBC’s broadcasts for reporters to use disparaging and derogatory remarks when reporting on Corbyn and his supporters.
It is therefore not surprising that the latest report by the BBC Trust has highlighted the significant link between the BBC and Conservative sources – and more importantly, their failure to fact-check and scrutinise the information they are being given by the government on a daily basis.