Research log

Topic of study:

The topic that I’m studying is political bias in news and media and whether it hurts or helps the democratic process.

Interviewee

My interviewee will be Justin Madders- who will be running for the ellesmere port and Neston parlimentary seat in the 2015 general election.

Interview and subject research

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/our_work/breadth_opinion/content_analysis.pdf

http://leftfootforward.org/2014/02/chris-grayling-is-right-the-bbc-is-biased-but-not-in-the-way-he-thinks/

“In August 2013, academics at Cardiff University investigated political bias at the BBC. They looked at news coverage from both 2007 and 2012 in order to analyse coverage under both the previous Labour government and the coalition.
Far from left-wing bias, researchers found a clear bias in favour of Tories. Whereas in 2007 Gordon Brown outnumbered David Cameron in appearances by a ratio of two to one, in 2012 David Cameron outnumbered Ed Miliband by nearly four to one. Across the entire period researchers studied, Tory politicians were featured more than 50 per cent more often than Labour ones. The researchers concluded that:

“The evidence is clear that the BBC does not lean to the left it actually provides more space for Conservative voices.”

The same was true of the corporation’s business coverage:
“Opinion was almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage. The fact that the City financiers who had caused the crisis were given almost monopoly status to frame debate again demonstrates the prominence of pro-business perspectives.”

These links and this information is useful to me because; immediately my investigation is given objective clarity. This objective clarity comes in the form of the cardiff universities’ own investigation into BBC bias. Some of the facts that will help in my interview could be:

  • From 2007-2012, members of the public have been given less representation in BBC news stories, going from getting representation 11.3% of the time in 2007, to getting 8.6% of a voice in 2012.
  • Trade union representatives also went down in overall source representation, going from getting 1.4% source coverage in 2007, to getting none in 2012.
  • The report also suggests that Islam has been given less coverage by the BBC, going from having 27.7% of religious stories coverage in 2007, to only having 13.3% of coverage in 2012.

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2535124/attacking-tories-bbc-exists-Boris-Johnson-claims-newspaper-sherlock-calls-dithering-incoherent.html)

This link is useful because it offers a dissenting opinion to my other sources.  The article also suggests something fairly sinister, that the BBC are sending out subliminal messages -of political bias -through there ordinary programming. Of course the source isn’t as solid as the Cardiff report.

Another source for my investigation is Michael Moore’s “bowling for columbine”. Michael has built a reputation for holding and pushing “left wing” philosophies. In this documentary- like his many others- he bashes right wing, for an example of this, look no further than the opening monologue “it was the morning of April 20th 1999, and it was a morning like any other in America, the farmer did his chores, the milkman made his deliveries, the president bombed another country whose name we couldn’t pronounce”

The key part of this qoutation is “the president bombed another country whose name we couldn’t pronounce”, keeping in mind that the president of the time was Bill Clinton- a “liberal”- at the time the documentary was released- 2002- G.W.Bush was president, which could be seen as a comment on Bushes forign policy, more than a comment on clinton’s. This resource is useful and relevent to my investigation, not just because it analyzes a source outside of my own country, giving me a wider perspective, but also because I can link it back to UK media if I want to, using this source: (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=bowlingforcolumbine.htm) Which shows that the UK contributed about 5% of “bowling for columbine’s” total gross during it’s term  in forign Cinemas.

Another source I can use is the documentary “Michael Moore: manufacturing dissent”. This documentary takes a look at Michael Moore and his films and seeks to uncover any and all lies and inconsistencies in his films. It’s important to keep in mind that the film makers wanted to do a film praising Michael Moore’s films and his journalistic ethics. (http://www.wnd.com/2007/03/40458/)

“When we started this project we hoped to have done a documentary that celebrated Michael Moore. We were admirers and fans,” said Debbie Melnyk, who, with husband Rick Caine, made the film. “Then we found out certain facts about his documentaries that we hadn’t known before. We ended up very disappointed and disillusioned.”

Caine and Melnyk discovered, early on, that the public persona they knew was not the Moore they encountered when they began to examine his work.”

This quote and the documentary, reveal that Michael Moore stretches and manipulates the truth and dramatises events to suit his narrative. These sources raise the question; do the ends justify the means? This could be a killer question in my interview, especially considering my interviewee’s left wing stance.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/sep/30/sun-ditches-labour-for-tories

The article above suggest that Newspapers- specifically the sun- have a huge influence, in deciding the winners of genaral elections. This hypothesis is also supported by this (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-political-affiliations-of-the-uks-national-newspapers-have-shifted-but-there-is-again-a-heavy-tory-predominance/) This link’s studies virtually prove that election wins are down to newspaper’s political bias. Some information I could use in my investigation could be:

  • That according to (http://www.democraticaudit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Media-graph1.png) this graph, since 1979, any party that has had the majority of newspaper’s support has won the general election.
  • From 1979, the only time a party has had a majority of newspaper support and not outright won a general election is 2010, possibly suggesting that people are starting to trust there media outlets less and less- although keep in mind that the conservatives did get into power, after forming a coalition with the lib dems.

Another source I could use is Owen Jones’ book “Chavs: the demonisation of the working class”.

(http://www.versobooks.com/books/1100-chavs)

On this website is a description of the book, as well as various quotations from various sources, putting over the book. For example:

  • “A passionate and well-documented denunciation of the upper-class contempt for the proles that has recently become so visible in the British class system.”
  • “It is a timely book. The white working class seems to be the one group in society that it is still acceptable to sneer at, ridicule, even incite hatred against. … Forensically … Jones seeks to explain how, thanks to politics, the working class has shifted from being regarded as ‘the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth’.”

Of course I have found a source which critiques some of Owen Jones views and opinions which are presented in his book.

Mainly from this article (http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2012/06/peter-cuthbertson-review-chavs-the-demonization-of-the-working-class-by-owen-jones.html)

“His account of salary determination gives far more credit to trade unions than to productivity, which he mentions once. Equally, he laments that “partly because of the ruinous economic policies of successive governments, the mines have closed, the docks are deserted, and most of the car factories are empty husks” as if militant trade unionism played no part in all three cases.

Jones’ view of conservatives is interesting, but confused. He seems unsure whether Tories are deeply class-conscious, and fighting a secret war on working class people, or oblivious and contemptuous of the very notion of class. He goes so far on page 47 as to accuse Margaret Thatcher of both loathing working class people and hating thinking of people in class terms.

The book is very journalistic. The author quotes at length those who share his views as if they provide independent evidence. Meeting with a counter-argument, he largely responds to the effect that “several people disagree with you”. At other times, he drearily quotes right-of-centre voices with outrage, scarcely bothering to explain why they are wrong.

I’ll close by noting another striking moment in the book. Jones comes back repeatedly to his discussions with Neil Kinnock, whom he quotes at one point as saying: “they’ve never had to engage in a class war. Largely because we signed the peace treaty without realising that they hadn’t”. It is both an intellectually interesting and defensible view that working class people are on the receiving end of class warfare, along with its obvious implication that working people should wage a class war of their own. But this is not the face Neil Kinnock showed British voters in 1987 and 1992. Such statements put his dramatic defeats in those elections in a new light, and underline British voters’ wisdom in rejecting him.”

These sources are helpful to my investigation, this is because Owen Jones is one of the more well known journalist in the public lexicon and directly looking at his “2 cents” on issues can give me a great insight into how his readers think. Also having an article which throws critism at Jones gives me a wider perspective on the issues that Jones raises.

Two more sources that I will use in my investigation are: Nigel Farage’s interview with Sean Hannity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrunY8aM9mg) and Russell Brands interview with Owen Jones (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMke9749FoE). In both interviews, neither interviewee is really challenged in their beliefs and are allowed to express themselves with little to no interuption.

In Nigel Farage’s interview, he and Hannity have a very good report and Nigel is allowed free roaming, in terms of what he can say and talk about. This was fairly odd for me as usually Hannity is more aggressive in his interviews, halfway through his own interview with Farage he shows him a clip of his interview with Anjem Choudry- who I won’t get into hear- and Hannity is completely different in his interview with Farage then he is with Choudry. This is probably due to the fact that Hannity works for Fox news, who have an moderate-extreme bias to the right- and Farage shares similar views to fox. The interview ends with Hannity saying to Farage ” I’m going to follow your career very closely, I appreciate it, we need Winston Churchills coming out of your countries”. Considering how high Churchill is held in our own country and various others, suggesting that Farage has the potential of a Churchill like legacy, can only be seen as a compliment, showing how little interest Hannity had in actually challenging Nigel Farage and how much interest he had in simply promoting him.

In Russell’s interview he is given much the same treatment by Owen Jones which is shown to Farage in Hannities interview, they demonstrate a friendly rapport, where Brand spent most of the time making jokes while Jones humoured him. Jones approach to the interview is very reminiscent of a Piers Morgan interview, where he asks him mainly open questions in as innocent a manner as possible. He does ask some lead in questions to Brand, for example:

“that personal journey that you just talked about and society as a whole, you’ve linked them together haven’t you? because you’ve looked at yourself in a way the change you went through, you’ve fought your drug addiction, and people often say you can’t do that, there’s no way you’ll win and if we look at social injustice, the people at the top push that idea don’t they? injustice is a bit like the weather, you can complain about it raining but there’s nothing you can do about it, because that’s the way the world is”.

In this one qoute, we see Owen Jones push Brand as a man with a powerful will and determination, “you’ve fought your drug addiction, and people often say you can’t do that, there’s no way you’ll win”. Jones makes beating drug addiction sound nigh impossible and for some it is, but it’s still hard to ignore Jones’ praise of Brands accomplishment. We also see Jones give Brand two lead in questions, normally lead in questions are effective at shoving the interviewee into an awkward box, with very few answers available to them, however in this interview Jones’ lead ins, seem to be parralel with Brands next point. Considering  that Owen Jones and Russell Brand often support each others beliefs and philosphies, with Jones suggesting that people who critisize Brand are snobby(http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/23/russell-brand-revolution-book-panel-verdict) and Brand calling Jones “our generation’s Orwell”.

To be fair to both Brand and Farage, they have had some grilling interviews in the past, where they’ve come under harsh scrutiny. I use these examples though to highlight that when a journalist has an agenda they often are lax in there interviews. This isn’t to say that a laid back, let your interview rant for minutes on end doesn’t work or is ineffective, because in Louis Theroux’s and Piers Morgan’s interviews, this strategy can be very effective.

I struggled to find much on my interviewee, this is mainly due to the fact that he’s a relatively fresh face in the political world. So for the first 10-15 of the interview I will take a laid back approach, ask him simple, open questions and let him air his thoughts. After that I will start employing irrative and leading questions, mainly just antagonising labour- due too his allegience to the party- finally I will end with a closed question, something along the lines of: do you think people are educated enough in politics, to make a fair and rational decision in who governs them?

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