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The treatment of Diane Abbott on BBC Question Time has brought into sharp relief the issue of bias at our supposedly impartial public service broadcaster.
While many of us grumble about this, one Morning Star reader in Solihull has taken a commendable approach to the situation.
Back in January 2018, Chris Murphy began watching the BBC’s nightly newspaper review show, that trails tomorrow’s front pages. Occasional viewers of the show might be puzzled by the absence of the Morning Star in this line-up, given that it is a daily national newspaper. Until now though, it was unclear whether this was a deliberate policy.
Indeed, when I recently complained to the BBC about the omission of a Morning Star front page, I was reassured that “our newspaper reviews consider publications across the media spectrum.”
Thanks to Mr Murphy though, we now have a trove of data to show that this discrimination against our paper is in fact constant. Our heroic reader sat through 361 consecutive episodes of the BBC paper’s show, an achievement in itself.
Better still is that he meticulously logged each programme in a spreadsheet, to monitor the coverage of Tory, Labour and non-aligned papers.
Remarkably, Mr Murphy found that the Morning Star “was not mentioned once at all” over an entire year of programming. He also found that “a hell of a lot more Conservative papers were discussed” by the show.
To be exact, 65 per cent of the show’s coverage was devoted to the pro-Tory papers, which Mr Murphy classed according to their political affiliation at the 2017 general election.
Labour supporting papers, among which Mr Murphy charitably included the Corbyn-bashing Guardian, got just 12 per cent of air time. Throughout his year of monitoring, Mr Murphy routinely published updates on his twitter account, and filed complaints with the BBC.
In response, the broadcaster tried to justify its slanted coverage by saying that there are more right-wing papers on the market, and so the show would inevitably reflect that.
However, Mr Murphy’s monitoring found that the show had time to mention titles such as BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post — indicating that producers could include online media to diversify the range of views.
It follows that the BBC could include the Morning Star and emerging left-wing media outlets like Novara to balance out the right-wing and centrist publications that dominate the show.
The fact that they repeatedly chose not to can only mean that our public service broadcaster refuses to recognise the Morning Star as part of the “media spectrum” — effectively a form of censorship. This position looks increasingly untenable, especially since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015.
Our paper is unique in its consistent support for Mr Corbyn as leader of the opposition. He has kindly called us “the most precious voice” in the daily press.
Indeed, even right-wing columnists like Daniel Finkelstein at The Times begrudgingly recognise our paper’s relevance since the 2015 political earthquake.
This week, Mr Finkelstein took out a subscription to the Morning Star in order to “understand the Labour leader … to read what he reads and listen to the people he listens to.”
Sadly the BBC shows no sign of taking such an enlightened “know thine enemy” approach — and may well get away with it.
Mr Murphy has patiently escalated his complaints through the broadcaster’s labyrinthine internal complaints process — which viewers must exhaust before resorting to Ofcom — to no avail.
When he eventually became eligible to complain to Ofcom, the TV watchdog sent an automated response saying it was unlikely his complaint would be investigated. Months later he has heard nothing back.
This silence over censorship is simply not good enough. We should all now champion Mr Murphy’s research as a lightning rod with which to demand genuinely impartial and balanced coverage of newspaper front pages by the BBC.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “All broadcasters we regulate must abide by our rules requiring due impartiality and we carefully consider complaints to ensure these rules are being met.”
The BBC said it includes a link to the Morning Star on its online papers blog, which is promoted during The Papers.
However the minuscule link is easily missed as it’s so buried.
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