BBC news balance and the wagon wheel

Not going underground

Not going underground

Last Wednesday the BBC One o’ Clock news covered the underground tube strike in London. It was a standard report except for one thing: the Major of London, Boris Johnson, was interviewed and he stated that the strikers should go back to work; however, the striker’s Union was not. Broadcast news in the UK has a duty to be impartial, which usually meant that stories were deemed to have two sides. So in this case the case for the strike should have been put.

In 2007, the BBC acknowledged that the ‘two sides of the story’ idea of balance was no longer viable:

Impartiality in broadcasting has long been assumed to apply mainly to party politics and industrial disputes. It involved keeping a balance to ensure the seesaw did not tip too far to one side or the other. Those days are over. In today’s multi-polar Britain, with its range of cultures, beliefs and identities, impartiality involves many more than two sides to an argument. Party politics is in decline, and industrial disputes are only rarely central to national debate. The seesaw has been replaced by the wagon wheel – the modern version used in the television coverage of cricket, where the wheel is not circular and has a shifting centre with spokes that go in all directions.

Despite the BBC deciding to shift toward the ‘wagon wheel’ approach there is still no justification for not including the Union’s viewpoint in the report last Wednesday. In addition, it was reported that the attendance for the England football team’s match that evening was going to be badly affected. The viewers were left with the impression that a lot of people were being greatly inconvenienced for no justifiable reason. Overall, it was a very badly put together report.


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