My praise for the impartial manner of Laura Kuenssberg does not extend to last night's Westminster Hour as a whole. Following the 'politics panel' came a report by Stephen Low that was far more typical of the BBC.
Low was looking at how the massive budget deficit facing the UK will be tackled and, on the face of it, gathered a representative selections of talking heads - one from the right-of-centre, another from the left-of-centre and an independent professor. The latter was quoted five times, framing the others, who each appeared three times. That sounds fair, doesn't it?
Who were these talking heads? First, the independent professor. He was introduced by Low as "Professor Colin Talbot of Manchester University". Then, from the centre-right, came "Elizabeth Truss of right-leaning think-tank 'Reform'" (note the label). Finally, from the centre-left, appeared "Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and former Downing Street advisor to Tony Blair."
I let the 'right-leaning' tag wash by me when I first heard it (as not being important), but pricked up my bias-hunter's ears when one of Matthew Taylor's 'bits' directly contradicted Elizabeth Truss's previous comments, and was led into by Low in such a way as to emphasize the fact. This was the only time one commentator was used (by the reporter) to undermine another. Unsurprisingly, the speaker from the left was being used to contradict the speaker from the right. This striking moment established my unease & led me to re-listen and check whether another hunch was correct i.e. that the 'right-leaning' contributor was being 'sampled' far less generously than the left-leaning one, Matthew Taylor. My hunch proved correct.
Here are the speaking time durations for each contributor:
Colin Talbot (independent) - 2 minutes 54 seconds
Elizabeth Truss (right) - 1 minute 18 seconds
Matthew Taylor (left) - 2 minutes 40 seconds
As you can clearly see, Matthew Taylor spoke for twice as long as Elizabeth Truss. In such details lies the evidence of bias.
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