BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Saturday 4 July 2009


The feeling many bloggers have that the BBC is biased towards the Left can always be dismissed as being either plain wrong or as a merely subjective point by beeboids and their allies. "Bias is in the eye of the beholder", they might say. So to put some flesh on the bones of feeling, an objective measure would prove useful and might help settle matters. We can hope.

Enter the Interruption Coefficient.


This brilliantly simple idea needs only a simple calculation. The Interruption Coefficient is just the number of significant interruptions/the length of the interview.

As a side-measure, not contained in the Interruption Coefficient, stands the Questions Coefficient. You will not hear too much about it here. I invented it (for what it's worth) and use it to help rank identical Interruption Coefficients. It suggests where the balance of power lies in the interview, and its calculation is just as simple, being the number of questions asked/the length of the interview.

Let me admit straight away that neither is a perfect guide to bias (especially the Questions Coefficient), only suggestive. Yet if the same criteria are applied to every interview and if a significant number of interviews - the more the better - are examined something of great value might be revealed.

If, say, in a single BBC programme a particular interviewer conducts an aggressive interview with a spokesman for one party, then a gentle interview with the spokesman of another party, the Interruption Coefficient should record that. If this pattern persists over a number of programmes bias will be suggested. If this pattern persists over a large number of programmes bias will be demonstrated.

I only began recording Interruption Coefficients early last month (June 2009), so this is an open project. I have grown ever more systematic. This is necessary to stave off the obvious accusation of selectivity. I will be concentrating on every interview with a representative of a UK political party (excluding those from Northern Ireland, so far). This includes MPs, MEPs, Lords, councillors, MSPs, AMs...

I will record every politician-centred interview on 'Today', 'The Daily Politics', 'The World at One', 'PM', 'The World Tonight', 'The Andrew Marr Show' and 'The Politics Show' (and its Scots and Welsh equivalents). I work & I sleep, so I can't do any more. (You, of course, can.)

Along the way, I've received invaluable advice and support from fellow bloggers, & am indebted to them all. Above all I salute the mysterious poster Ctesibius, who offered the idea then vanished back into the blogosphere. Good man, Ctesibius!

As an example, take Martha Kearney on 'The World at One'. On 1st July 2009, she conducted 5 interviews. Two were with Conservative MPs, Theresa Villiers and Nick Gibb, two were with Labour spokesmen, Jim Knight MP and Lord Adonis, and one was with Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather. Here are the Interruptions Coefficients:

Nick Gibb 1.5
Sarah Teather 1.4
Theresa Villiers 1.3
Jim Knight 0.9
Lord Adonis 0.7

So, here the two gentlest interviews were with the Labour Party. If, over many programmes, Martha continues to score lower Interruption Coefficients for the Labour Party than for the Conservatives or Lib Dems she will be shown to be biased in favour of the Labour Party. I'm not yet saying that she is, but if she is the Interruption Coefficients will show it.

All you need is spare time, a pair of ears and a calculator & you too can track BBC bias.

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