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The hunt for media bias in the UK

Below is part of my EPQ report on freedom of speech as a media right. You can find the introduction on my blog. Let me know of your thoughts!

– D.

Media Bias in the UK

Responsibility lies with journalists to report both sides of the story, meaning claims should be reported and evenly-countered with contrasting positions.23 But any publicised media support for a political movement or ideology, advertising bias and sensationalism all contribute towards the argument that the UK media is always biased in some way or form.

A recent survey conducted by TheMediaBlog.co.uk, a blog which analyses and examines the British media, showed political bias very much exists within various media outlets.24

Out of1,054 people who took the survey, nearly 65% expressed the view that Sky News ‘displayed a clear pro-Conservative bias in its reporting, whilst only around 9% said that no overall bias was expressed through Sky News.
11.3% said ITV showed a ‘strong Conservative’ bias, and 17.5% said they had witnessed ‘some Conservative bias.’ In contrast, 6.5% of those polled believed ITV displayed some pro-Lib Dem bias in their news, and 4.1% stated a pro-Labour bias was also present.
The graph below illustrates the full findings.

The BBC and Channel 4 were seen as the most impartial in their reporting. 48% of respondents said Channel 4 demonstrated no clear bias in their news and their perceived neutrality was seen as better than their rivals. The BBC also achieved a great level of apparent neutrality, with bias split across the three main parties.
Although the size and nature of the survey somewhat undermines its results and importance, it serves as a basic tool to gauge a general view held by a section of the public.

In light of this survey, it begs the question: why is there such a large amount of media bias in the UK?
Sadly, the sensationalistic distortion employed by some journalists in order to make ludicrous or factually-incorrect claims in articles has led to critics claiming that mass media is shifting itself from its moral and ethical roots.
The term ‘sensationalism’ is almost synonymous with tabloid journalism, in which journalists are commonly seen to exploit scaremongering tactics or shocking headlines to increase readership.

But media bias is by no means limited to only tabloid newspapers.
For example, Arab Media Watch25, an organisation which monitors British media coverage of issues concerning the Arab world, asserted that the UK press was biased in its reporting over claims of Syrian Scud missile deliveries to Hezbollah.

The Daily Telegraph was accused as the most biased, depicting Hezbollah as a threat to Israel more frequently than in any other of the newspapers’ articles, even though the claims against them were untrue.
The Syrian and Lebanese government denials about the delivery of the missiles were given less distinction, unlike in the Guardian when it was mentioned at the beginning of the article.
And unlike Reuters, none of the articles in question published by the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent mentioned doubts held by US officials about the claims either.
In summary, if the reader could read nothing but the title, the lead and photograph shown in the Telegraph article, he/she would learn little about the Syria-Lebanese-Israeli-Hezbollah quarrel, and that Hezbollah is a ‘Lebanon-based terrorist group’ when in fact, it is not a terrorist group at all.26

Overall, the issue of media bias is widely disputed; how can a journalist be expected to report all the facts and link them together in a coherent narrative without realistic limitations such as time and source checking? Some would argue that in this case, selectivity is not desirable but necessary. As long as the journalist’s selectivity does not contravene the story’s factuality, bias in a particular sense will always be present.



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