Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The BBC's biased account of bias

Only the BBC could look at its coverage and conclude that the most worrying bias was a lack of coverage of the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians. That imbalance is suspect as Israel is surrounded by the vastly more populous Arab states who cannot be considered neutral bystanders. Besides, Mr. Eugenides notes that at least one BBC news correspondent has demonstrated a massive pro-Palestinian bias.

The report, unfortunately, appears to have dismissed the wider problems of bias in the BBC. Their local government coverage a few years ago was a particularly awful example. Under Iain Duncan Smith's leadership the Conservatives had just won a huge number of council seats; clearly Labour was the party with questions to answer about its performance. However, the coverage, with Michael Howard as the lone voice in support of the Conservative party's performance, managed to turn the success into abject failure by focussing on the misgivings of one, previously unknown, member of the parliamentary Conservative party.

These examples show just why enforcing objectivity in TV news is such a bad idea. Everyone has there own sense not only of how to interpret facts but also of which facts are important and which are open to debate. The limitations of having this decided by a regulator can be seen in the case of the Fox News description of the BBC as 'left wing' getting it into trouble with the UK regulator. A free market in ideas and journalism as seen in the newspapers could lead to a more varied and fair TV news output.

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