A media riddle


by Sunny
24th August, 2007 at 11:15 am    

BSSC has a riddle for his readers:

I believe that Rupert Murdoch, an Australian with US citizenship, has far too much influence over politics in this country and that he uses his media outlets to push his political agenda at every opportunity.

Whenever I try to draw attention to this, there will always be someone who broadly shares Murdoch’s political views ready to tell me I’m a patronising git. “That’s so typical of a condescending bruschetta munching Guardianista. You assume that the great unwashed are stupid mindless drones being helplessly brainwashed by this bias…”

Here’s the riddle.

Murdoch’s newspapers, and others who would benefit from the removal of a reasonably neutral news service, constantly harp on about the damaging affects of the alleged bias of the BBC. So, can the media shape public opinion or not? And can I have my cake and eat it a the same time?

An interesting question, surely. Now who’s going to attempt to answer this one?


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  1. Leon — on 24th August, 2007 at 11:33 am  

    Now who’s going to attempt to answer this one?

    Answer: Noam Chomsky in his book Manufacturing Consent (and for those who prefer to watch than read check out the documentary).

  2. Tim Worstall — on 24th August, 2007 at 11:58 am  

    Could be that newspapers don’t actually form their readers ideas: rather, they chase the ones they already have. There’s even academic research to support this:
    http://andrewleigh.com/?p=1461

  3. Sofia — on 24th August, 2007 at 12:04 pm  

    media is made up of individuals..ask yourself this Sunny, as a journo, how neutral are you? and how far are your thoughts shaped by those around you and therefore have an impact on what you write and what you then go on to read…people on this blog may not agree with all your views or any of them, but they still come back to give their opinion…your views may not influence their direct thought, but maybe their thought process..if that makes sense…

  4. Roger — on 24th August, 2007 at 12:46 pm  

    Newspapers and other media may not create their readers’ opinions, but they probably help to confirm and conform them. They do sometimes have an influence on public thought. I can remember when there was no such term as “asylum seeker”; it was various newspapers that mde that the standard term for a refugee.
    As for Mr Murdoch, he has sound commercial reasons for disliking a publicly-paid-for television service- not just a news service. it forces commercial services like his own to spend more on programmes than they otherwise would and so reduces profits.

  5. Sofia — on 24th August, 2007 at 1:52 pm  

    isn’t use of terminology by journalists a lazy way of trying to label concepts and to remain within word counts…immigration = refugees (somehow that is now a perception), Islamists..what the hell is that…religous fundamentalism = fanatacism, Asian/black culture = the “other”…I don’t think many journalists often think about the way they use these words and the effects words can have upon public perception…

  6. soru — on 24th August, 2007 at 2:44 pm  

    You can see the influence of media by comparing opinions between countries. The effect is strongest in foriegn policy: for everyone without relatives or other personal contacts in a country, literally everything they know about it comes from the papers and TV news.

    French views of Saddam’s Iraq, and US views of current Iran, both differ quite strongly from those typical in the UK, based on nothing more than different media coverage.

    The extreme example is North Korea, where apparanetly the average citizen believes the rest of the world is an anarchic hellhole that spends all its time plotting the downfall of the only place on earth worth living in.

    That doesn’t apply so much to domestic issues – as soon as you contradict the personal experience of your readership, they stop believing you.

  7. Sunny — on 24th August, 2007 at 3:27 pm  

    Tim: Could be that newspapers don’t actually form their readers ideas: rather, they chase the ones they already have.

    But that is BSSC’s point. If they only reflect ideas, and there’s no worry about forming people’s opinions, why do people make such a big deal about supposed BBC bias?

  8. Bleh — on 24th August, 2007 at 3:31 pm  

    why do people make such a big deal about supposed BBC bias?

    Due to the fact that you can be sent to prison for not paying the BBC poll tax, possibly?

  9. Sofia — on 24th August, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

    Yes i do resent having to pay a licence..although I don’t believe the bbc is any more or less biased than other forms of media

  10. Sofia — on 24th August, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

    some are just a bit more subtle about it

  11. Sunny — on 24th August, 2007 at 4:11 pm  

    Due to the fact that you can be sent to prison for not paying the BBC poll tax, possibly?

    Over 90% of people still consume its products in some shape or form.
    The anger doesn’t explain why they get annoyed over alleged news coverage bias…. it merely says you don’t want to pay for something that does not reflect your views. Does that bias have an impact or not? That’s the main question.

  12. Bleh — on 24th August, 2007 at 5:17 pm  

    Over 90% of people still consume its products in some shape or form.

    I’m sure 90% of the people in this country consume Heinz Baked Beans. Does this mean people who don’t like them or use them should be forced to pay up or face jail?

    The problem isn’t so much bias (all large bodies will display such inclinations), but that we have to pay for it on threat of going to jail. That is what we object to.

  13. General Ludd — on 24th August, 2007 at 5:43 pm  

    “Yes i do resent having to pay a licence..although I don’t believe the bbc is any more or less biased than other forms of media”
    I don’t have a TV and I don’t pay for a licence. On the other hand whenever I buy something i am required to pay the cost- rather higher over a year- of the advertising put on TV for it.

  14. Sunny — on 24th August, 2007 at 5:52 pm  

    that we have to pay for it on threat of going to jail. That is what we object to.

    It’s the same with council tax. And you use local council services. Your point is?

  15. Bleh — on 24th August, 2007 at 6:35 pm  

    If I don’t watch Sky, I don’t pay for Sky. But even if I don’t watch the BBC, I still have to pay the BBC. Its like being forced to buy the Indy every morning on threat of jail even though I normally buy the Times.

  16. Bleh — on 24th August, 2007 at 6:37 pm  

    And furthermore, Sunny, if you’re going down the road of equating the BBC with council services – councils have a statutory duty to be ideologically neutral – something the BBC sure as hell isn’t.

  17. General Ludd — on 25th August, 2007 at 5:06 pm  

    I don’t watch Sky TV but whenever I buy something that is advertised on Sky TV I have to pay something towards paying for those advertisements.

  18. Sunny — on 25th August, 2007 at 5:56 pm  

    councils have a statutory duty to be ideologically neutral – something the BBC sure as hell isn’t.

    Well, you say it isn’t but thats a subjective view based on the view that it doesn’t reflect your view. I also think the BBC is biased, but towards the right.

    Councils have a lot of duties too they don’t carry out efficiently or like they’re supposed to.

  19. Bleh — on 26th August, 2007 at 2:00 am  

    I also think the BBC is biased, but towards the right.

    Hahahahahahahaha. Only on Planet Sunny.

    Incidentally, there was research done a while back that showed that Fox News, in terms of political punditry was actually more balanced than any of the other major free-to-air news channels in the US.

    Look, if the BBC wants to be biased, I have no problem, if it was VOLUNTARILY funded. Once again, my basis point remains unanswered – why should the BBC be funded via a Poll tax?

  20. Sunny — on 26th August, 2007 at 2:13 am  

    Incidentally, there was research done a while back that showed that Fox News, in terms of political punditry was actually more balanced than any of the other major free-to-air news channels in the US.

    And I can point towards research and written evidence to show the exact opposite. How about you point me to yours?

    Once again, my basis point remains unanswered – why should the BBC be funded via a Poll tax?

    We’re going round and round in circles. Why do you have to pay tax full stop? Why not just stop paying that?

    If bias is a problem then you’re implying the media has a direct impact on influencing people. Then it must follow we need someone to balance the right-wing media like Times, Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph.

  21. Vasey — on 26th August, 2007 at 5:04 pm  

    To claim that Fox News is balanced is to be completely delusional. What’s next? The Sun not bigoted against immigrants? The Guardian not ridiculously condescending? The Independent not a total joke due to the inherent contradiction between its massive travel section and its supposedly eco-friendly stance? The Daily Star an actual newspaper?

  22. Mr Eugenides — on 28th August, 2007 at 11:56 pm  

    I’ve come to this party after all the guests have left, but my tuppence-worth:

    Media can be as biased as they like [in principle] but not on my dime. I have no choice but to pay for the BBC (and nor do I resent doing so) but I am entitled, in return, to political impartiality. Because I do not pay for the Times or the Sun, I have no such right as regards their output.

    Surely that’s fairly straightforward?

    PS I broadly (very broadly) share Murdoch’s political views, and his papers have backed Labour 3 times in a row. So it’s not like I’m delighted with the current state of play.

  23. Sunny — on 29th August, 2007 at 1:36 am  

    Since I’m the host of the party Mr E, I may as well respond.

    I’m approaching the question in a slightly different way here. We know the license fee is a tax, like the council tax for example, and neither institutions are anywhere near being perfect.

    The point is this. Many on the right loathe the BBC for its perceived leftwing bias. Now unless one thought the media had an impact in shaping opinions, one wouldn’t be so fussed about its perceived leftwing bias.

    So it seems to me that many on the right dislike the BBC because they don’t want the influence of its (perceived) leftwing bias to have outside influence. Or they don’t like their ideas challenged. Which is it going to be?

  24. Bleh — on 29th August, 2007 at 10:12 am  

    No, Sunny, you miss the point completely. We object to having to pay, on threat of going to jail, for left-wing bias.

    Its like buyers of washing machines being forced to pay a tax to subsidise Persil. Which part of that do you not understand?

    I’ll dig out the bias study later, when I’m at home and have access to the bookmark.

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