Letter: Media survey an exercise in futility

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The Independent Online
Sir: When the right-of-centre Media Monitoring Unit used to publish its reports on political bias in broadcasting between 1985 and 1990, the media establishment sought to rubbish its findings as subjective. Those findings, however, were based on systematic motoring of entire programme series and were backed up by detailed textual criticism of programme transcripts.

Year after year, however, the Independent Television Commission solemnly avers that some supposedly precise percentage of the viewing public believes that television is biased towards the Conservatives ("Viewers say BBC bias favours Tories", 22 June).

How many of those polled systematically watched even one whole series of political programmes? How many of them bothered to review and analyse the programme texts? How many of them are Labour supporters or other opponents of the Government? How likely is it that viewers strongly supporting one political party would form the impression that programmes slanted towards that party are, in fact, examples of bias? What, in short, is the value of this hopelessly subjective survey besides being grossly unscientific PR for the broadcasting establishment?

The whole point of partisan propaganda is to sway the views of the target audience without the target audience knowing what is being done to it. If biased broadcasting is carried out efficiently, asking its victims whether or not they thought it was biased is an exercise in futility.

Yours sincerely,

Norris McWhirter

The Freedom Association

London, SE1