A recent study [pdf] by the LSE Department of Media and Communications has concluded that, in reporting on the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, “UK journalism has played an attackdog, rather than a watchdog, role“.
The study, called “Journalistic Representation of Jeremy Corbyn in the British press” analysed 812 articles in 8 British Newspapers over the period 1 September to 1 November 2015.
It found that 54% of news reporting about Mr Corbyn was negative or blatantly antagonistic. In addition, the study found that 67% of opinion pieces and editorials were either negative or antagonistic.
Almost 10% of the articles relating to Mr Corbyn associated him with terrorism – mentioning Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA or terrorism in general. When his views are reproduced they were very often taken out of context (in 22% of articles).
In another study, conducted jointly by the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck and the Media Reform Coalition, an analysis of 465 online news items and 40 prime time television news bulletins found that twice as much airtime was given to critical voices in relation to Mr Corbyn.
In summary, this second study found that
- Twice as much airtime given to critical, rather than supportive voices.
- Huge imbalance in favour of issues pushed by Corbyn critics on early evening BBC and ITV bulletins – especially pronounced in headline stories.
- Strong tendency within BBC main evening news for reporters to use pejorative language when describing Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
- Domination of views opposed to the Labour leadership in all but one of the online outlets sampled, and across both left and right-leaning titles.
- Online-only news sites – Huffington Post, IB Times – were relatively balanced in their coverage, as well as the BBC online.
In a post on the History Matters blog, Aaron Ackerley, considered the LSE Study and concluded:
“There is no simple remedy. Ideally, the public should demand more from those that supposedly monitor the political world on their behalf. Regulation is tricky, and political views must not be censored. A press standards organisation with more licence and willingness to act against inaccuracies would help. After the press largely escaped repercussions following Leveson, this is another warning sign that we need to think about ways to temper its worst excesses, especially as the myth of the free press continues to be spun.”