Fighting media bias – you can help us

An opinion poll taken at the end of the Liberal Democrat Conference earlier this autumn put the Liberal Democrats ahead of the Labour Party, it was accompanied by a raft of other polls which also showed significant increases in our support.

The reason for this sudden upswing in our poll rating was relatively simple: for one short period in the political calendar, the broadcast media had provided us with a fair volume of coverage and the public had liked what they saw.

Regrettably, conference season and General Election campaigns apart, the broadcasters rarely comply with their duty to give us due prominence. We think it’s time that changed and we need your help to make it happen.

Media squeeze

But first the bad news. Traditionally the tendency to deny us fair coverage actually gets worse in the period leading up to the General Election campaign itself. The media establishment become obsessed by a two-party focus and our voice gets squeezed out.

The result is usually a slump in our poll rating as the public conclude that we must have packed our bags and gone on holiday. It happens time and again in the lead up to a General Election.

In March 1997 as the broadcasters increasingly excluded us from coverage, our poll ratings fell back to a monthly average of less than 13 per cent and the same happened in March 2001.

In 2005 the focus on the Iraq War protected our poll rating to some extent but we can expect a similar attempt to squeeze us ahead of next year’s Election. It is critical that we prevent this from happening.

Already we are witnessing worrying signs that the broadcasters may be heading back down this road. The BBC’s news and current affairs programmes appear to be showing significant, consistent and unacceptable bias at both national and regional level. Our spokespeople are regularly denied airtime even when we hold the distinct position on an issue and Labour and the Tories agree with each other.

BBC bias

A recent debate on Radio 4’s Today programme which excluded our distinctive opposition to new nuclear in favour of an obscure argument over process between pro nuclear Tory and Labour spokespeople, was just one more example in a growing litany of BBC bias.

Our media team is working hard to counter the increasing examples of this bias that we are witnessing. A new complaints system has recently been instituted to ensure that every example that we encounter is challenged and, wherever necessary is escalated up the BBC management structure; our monitoring and analysis service has been beefed up to help build the body of evidence we need to challenge the BBC and we are regularly reminding it of its duty to give us due prominence in their reporting.

We will continue to press the BBC in this way. But to maximise our effectiveness we need your help. Over six million of the BBC’s viewers and listeners voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last election and we think it is time that the BBC heard their voice.

Complain directly

So we are asking you to help us.  Complain directly to the BBC whenever you witness a clear example of bias on national, regional or local TV or radio and we want you to copy us in on those complaints so that we can build up the mass of evidence we need. It is important that we avoid frivolous complaints and focus only on issues where bias is clear and uncontestable.

You can direct your complaints to the BBC in a number of ways: via the website at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/homepage/ , in writing at BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Glasgow, G2 3WT or by phone: 03700 100 222 or textphone 03700 100 212.

Copy us in

However you choose to lodge your complaint, please be sure to copy us in setting out the nature of the complaint, the name of the programme you are complaining about, the time and date it was broadcast and the TV or radio station it appeared on. Then send it to us either by emailing [email protected] or by writing to Liberal Democrat Media Watch, 4 Cowley Street, London SW1P 3NB

Your help in logging examples of bias across regional and local broadcast media is a key part of our plans to resist the traditional squeeze on coverage ahead of the elections. That could prove vital in maximising the number of votes and seats that we win at the next election.

Jonny Oates is the party’s Director of Election Communications

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19 Comments

  • Andy, the BBC has a constitutional duty to be politically neutral… So any example of them failing here is failing the license payer. The other broadcasters (particularly SKY) don’t have this same duty, so complaining may not be successful whereas the BBC should take criticisms on board.

    I do however agree we should pressure other news vendors to broadcast our messages…

  • Yeah, it’s because it is easier to make the BBC keep to its obligations on non-bias. It’s more likely to work. It’s the same reason why Amnesty International criticises governments more than terrorist organisations.

    Perhaps the rallying call of this campaign ought to be “Remember Question Time”?

  • rob mcnaughton 30th Dec '09 - 12:19pm

    yet the libs seem keen to continue the media bias against the snp, that islander tavish mcshetland thinks that scottish issues shown in scotland should not have the most popular party there a spart of the coverage despite legal requirements for equality in broadcasting at election time.
    when the libs lose their hypocrisy and say the media is biased against them and the snp (and ukip and even the bnp) they will have more credibility. the game is sewn up between tories and labour, it needs to be changed for the libs as well, as the story correctly suggests.
    just because this time they are treated as an equal does not make the system fair.

  • Want more media coverage? Win more seats. Simples.

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Dec '09 - 12:25pm

    Want more seats? Gain more media coverage. Not so simples.

  • It’s quite clear from the Lib Dem’s euphoric enthusiasm for the proposed leader’s debates that they only have a problem with unfairness when they themselves don’t benefit from it.

    Pure hypocrisy.

  • Iainm, the next biggest party in Great Britain has fewer than 1% of the seats. How do you fairly account for this in a national debate? Specifically regional debates are a different issue.

  • Edward;
    You can’t account for it. With our current hodge-podge of constitutional settlements there is no format that would be both workable and fair, which is why the debates shouldn’t be held at all.

    Honestly, watching the Lib Dems bleat about unfairness in the media would be comical if it weren’t so offensive.

  • I’ve tried complaining to the BBC twice recently; both on political issues.

    After a fair wait you get a reply which completely misses the point or denies that the incident never happened.

    And you cannot respond directly – you have to submit a new complaint, and start from scratch.

    Not easy.

  • If I had to complain to the bbc on political bias I would have to complain at least 5 times per day on radio 4 alone.
    As with Crewegwyn, you only get a bbc asinine reply computer generated reply to a complaint with a human name such as John or Andrew.
    No records of complaints are made or acknowleged by the bbc and put to the public – perhaps your compaign on bias should be better targeted to addressing this issue?

    As for the LibDems all I hear from them on radio 4 is them knocking the Tories, UKIP, SNP, and of course the usual bullying of the BNP that all 3 major parties are frightened of.
    As an apolitical person I find almost nothing to admire in any of the 3 major parties, but if the LibDems teamed up with this incompetent government then I would seriously have to consider emigration along with 10’s of thousands of others and leave the country to venal politicians and immigrants.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Dec '09 - 12:14pm

    @Cassandrina
    Don’t let the door catch you on the way out.

  • It isn’t complaints that will solve the problem. You guys need to sort out your rapid-response capabilities.
    I’m still not seeing a LibDem response the Cameron’s speech in Oxford?
    Until we can prove we are capable of responding to the fast-changing nature of the political news cycles and movements within the other parties (like the US democrats did in 2006 with Rahmbo heading the DCCC), the media won’t take us as seriously.

  • It’s also the vehemence of the response. We need to be much stronger in our ripostes to the Conservatives and the kind of rubbish they come up with, like their message about there being few differences between them and us. No use being polite. We need to toughen up what we are saying.

    We need to start putting our message out, daily if necessary on our website. I have just had a look and there is nothing there to rebut the kind of tripe the Conservatives are putting out.

  • ” the broadcast media had provided us with a fair volume of coverage and the public had liked what they saw.”

    Simply do not believe this. When will the limp dims stop blaming a lack of media coverage for their lack of success? They do not succeed because of what they are, not because of the bbc, or sky, etc.

    Why would the public want to vote for a party to the left of Labour, with a pompous, humourless oaf as their leader? Oh, and a ridiculous died-in-the-wool socialist as “shadow chancellor”. My milkman could have preidcted a housing bubble and credit crash. Economic guru my arse.

    Latest you gov poll – lib dems on SIXTEEN PER CENT. equates to about 30 seats at an election. More than what they deserve.

    The public don’t vote for limp dim because they don’t like them. It really is as simple as that.

  • You seem pretty upset Bert.

    Do you need a hug?

  • Perhaps your milkman could replace George Porge Osborne then Bert? I doubt he would see a financial crisis brewing if he lived in the brewery….

5 Trackbacks

  • By Daily View 2×2: 31 December 2009 on Thu 31st December 2009 at 7:38 am.

    […] Don’t forget Lib Dem Voice is still seeking your nominations for Liberal Voice 2009. […]

  • […] or the Internet. Jonny Oates, the Lib Dems’ Director of Communications, has already outlined here on LDV what Lib Dems need to do when blatant media bias rears its head. So don’t get angry, get […]

  • By Playing fair with Question Time #bbcqt – Freedom Central on Tue 23rd February 2010 at 10:50 pm.

    […] the year turned, Jonny Oates the Lib Dems Comms guru penned a piece for Lib Dem Voice. Asking members of the Lib Dems to help challenge media bias. How very pertinent. The BBC have […]

  • By Tories cry “foul” at Lib Dems’ fair hearing on Wed 31st March 2010 at 4:56 pm.

    […] We’ve covered before the familiar problem of media bias against the Liberal Democrats, and explained how you can help. […]

  • By ELEZIONI UK: SPIN DOCTOR DAY | PR ITALY on Mon 31st May 2010 at 11:26 pm.

    […] ritorno al partito come responsabile comunicazione durante le elezioni. A dicembre risale la sua campagna “contro i pregiudizi dei media”: stampa e BBC, a suo avviso, ossessionate dal presentare la campagna elettorale come una guerra fra […]

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