Tuesday, 16 June 2009

BBC' s European news values

Cliff Dillow has picked up on a point I noted elsewhere on the Internet, that BBC does not exert itself to examine anti-EU assertions for points of fact. On Radio 4's "Feedback" last Saturday (repeated Sunday evening), the complaint of a listener that he had not been given enough information about the EU by the BBC during the recent election campaign was heard. Presenter Roger Bolton pressed the corporation's Rick Bailey as to why there had been no examination of the claim by UKIP and other anti-EU parties that 75% (sometimes 85%) of UK legislation originated in Brussels.

Bailey's response was that this was a matter of political debate and disputation. I'm sorry? Something which can be objectively measured, subject to the caveats of definition, is only a matter of debate?? BBC News is not shy of lending its authoritative voice to statements such as "Beleaguered Gordon Brown is trying to hold his government together" or "the legacy he will leave to the next Conservative government", statements which are either debatable or speculative. Other facts and figures which have political implications, like money market analyses, are relayed by the likes of Robert Peston. Yet it can't be bothered to do the same work on key indicators in the European debate.

One might draw the conclusion that the news and current affairs department has already been stuffed with Eurosceptic Conservatives in anticipation of a change of government, and a possible change of attitude toward the BBC, much as happened in the late 1990s in favour of Labour as docu-dramas covering the period would have us believe.

J Clive Matthews, on Liberal Conspiracy, did the arithmetic before polling day. He also quotes calculations done for a few other parliaments. Admittedly, he does not in the end plump for one single figure - that problem of definition again - but he is adamant that it is nothing like the 70%+ claimed by Eurosceptics. Or the BBC could use another outside expert, Alan Butt Philip, who also confirms that the figure is below 50%.

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