This week the Centre for Policy Studies published a report claiming to have found a left of centre bias in the BBC’s online reporting of think tanks. They also claim right of centre think tanks are more likely to receive health warnings than their left of centre counterparts.

The CPS itself is hardly impartial on the BBC – it argues for a smaller BBC and campaigns against the licence fee.

Leaving this aside there are several points about the report that are worth noting.

The report crucially doesn’t give details of the actual news stories in which the think tanks are mentioned, omitting useful context. We don’t give health warnings about think tanks, we aim to describe them. The CPS also haven’t published their own definitions for describing the think tanks concerned - another crucial omission. Nor do they provide concrete evidence to back up their claims or publish the full methodology used – although they do point to references to searches on Wikipedia.

BBC News provides impartial and independent coverage to a quarter of a billion people across the world.

Our priority is to deliver the best services for all our audiences at home and abroad and in that we are pleased to say we are succeeding with record audiences abroad and more listeners and viewers at home than any of our competitors. We are rigorously policed by the BBC Trust, our own editorial guidelines and our own audiences. More importantly, we remain the most trusted news broadcaster in the UK.

Francesca Unsworth is Deputy Director, BBC News and Current Affairs


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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Trev

    on 20 Aug 2013 08:30

    I think the CPS is correct in getting rid of the licence fee. It is an outdated way to fund radio and television. As we have seen it leads to out of control spending.

    As for the News I think it is left wing and dare I say it reflects femail views. The One Show is extreamly left wing. My main concern is dumbing down that now exists on televison news. At the start of the nine o'clock news they tell us what they are going to cover followed half way through they remind us what they covered just in case we can't remember and then at the the end told us waht they have covered again. Of course all this just waists time and so there is no time to cover anything at depth. Medical reports are very poor in they they often report things a "Break Through" which is going to transform our lives. Infact these so called "Break Throughs" are often are far less significant. In fact I would say that much of the reporting is very shallow.

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by Neverwas

    on 18 Aug 2013 21:11

    I notre first the well-known trick of asking questions rather than answering the complaint.

    Then, as already noted, there is the way this blog plays the man not the ball.

    But above all else I note that yet again the BBC produces no evidence of its own. It merely asserts that it is impartial. The line trotted out time after time is that there is a whole editorial process and then the trust to ensure it is. So that's alright then isn't it, we can trust the same process and personnel that did such a good job with Savile and severance payments.

    But thanks for the further evidence that the BBC is self-serving. The comment "The CPS itself is hardly impartial on the BBC – it argues for a smaller BBC and campaigns against the licence fee" denigrates all who hold that view. Where does your charter give you the right to take sides on such a political issue?

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Kilgore

    on 17 Aug 2013 19:42

    "More importantly, we remain the most trusted news broadcaster in the UK."

    Says who ?

    A think tank?

    Most people now realise that the days of the BBC being a reliable news source have long since gone .

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by Derek_Watson

    on 17 Aug 2013 19:04

    "The CPS itself is hardly impartial on the BBC – it argues for a smaller BBC and campaigns against the licence fee."

    I believe that's what's known as an 'ad hominem argument'. If their findings are correct then their motivation is irrelevant.

    No less an 'ad hom' is your snide point about them referring to Wikipedia - which they did (once) merely to access a list of well-known UK think tanks.

    Do you think that context would help, Fran? That comparing the BBC articles which mention the left-leaning IPPR to those which mention the right-leaning CPS, for example, would show that the BBC is impartial?

    Take a look for yourself and you'll find it won't.

    Search under 'IPPR' and 'Institute for Public Policy Research' and 'Centre for Policy Studies' and read each article since, say, Jan 2012 and you'll see that IPPR reports form the starting point of significantly more articles (by a large margin) than CPS reports. Context is unlikely to be your friend here.

    "We don’t give health warnings about think tanks, we aim to describe them."

    Excuse me if I don't accept that, given that you so often don't describe them when doing so would give your viewers and listeners a useful handle on where they are coming from.

    As an extra example of that, the Resolution Foundation think tank's findings on 'the squeezed middle' (so helpful to the Labour Party and widely reported by the BBC), might benefit from context being given as to the centre-left nature of that particular think tank - plus the links of many of its senior figures to the last Labour government.

    The CPS could have done with showing ALL their working, but they showed more of it than you are implying. Did you not read the introduction to their report?

    Your response here isn't really adequate, is it? And appearing to get your defences from 'Liberal Conspiracy' doesn't add to your credibility either.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by JunkkMale

    on 17 Aug 2013 17:37

    'They also claim..;

    Hold that thought.

    'The CPS itself is hardly impartial on the BBC – it argues for a smaller BBC and campaigns against the licence fee. Leaving this aside...'

    No, let's not. The defensive points made have no bearing on BBC bias.

    And most of the 'several points' made next are pure internal PR... 'claims'.

    You self-police in secret, with redactions & FoI exemptions, and block or ban critics. That is no route to trust.

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Localist

    on 17 Aug 2013 01:39

    The BBC tends to defend the establishment view and complements this with outlandish views at the extremes of the spectrums to give some illusion of balance (not sure if it's intentional or just subconscious).

    The idea that any group can be impartial is dubious, but if you were going to attempt this the cornerstone is critical reasoning, investigative journalism and objectivity no matter who gets offended. I don't get the impression the BBC does this a great deal.

    One of the best solutions would be to make the BBC a co-operative, meaning there can be democratic accountability and those that don't want to pay the license fee don't have to. Everybody's a winner.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Chris Q

    on 16 Aug 2013 15:03

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Croz

    on 16 Aug 2013 14:12

    If this is the best defence you can manage it's absolutely pathetic. The license fee is outdated and the BBC redundant.

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by fairpoint

    on 16 Aug 2013 13:05

    I think that many of the accusations of political bias at the BBC are completely overblown (both from left and right), but I have to say this is extremely arrogant and dismissive response to the CPS report.

    Yes, they are no fans of the BBC, and that should be taken into account, but their report is a substantial piece of work and the specific point on think tanks needs to be considered. How an organisation is introduced immediately colours the viewer's/listener's judgement.

    Why not just have a blanket rule that all think tanks are introduced with a short description? 'Independent' is not sufficient, it gives no idea of their political leaning. Or even better, describe the organisation in terms of its position on the subject: "the Adam Smith Institute has campaigned against the Mansion tax", "Demos opposes the so-called 'target-driven' culture in education', for example.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by michaelanthonyrees

    on 16 Aug 2013 13:00

    With their complete lack of coverage of the ongoing demolition of the NHS, I'd say that the BBC are firmly in the Government's pocket.

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