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Think tanks, television news and impartiality: The ideological balance of sources in BBC programming

Lewis, Justin ORCID: and Cushion, Stephen ORCID: 2019. Think tanks, television news and impartiality: The ideological balance of sources in BBC programming. Journalism Studies 20 (4) , pp. 480-499. 10.1080/1461670X.2017.1389295

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Is the use of think tanks ideologically balanced in BBC news and current affairs programming? This study empirically answers this question by establishing which think tanks are referenced in different BBC programming in 2009 and 2015, and then classifying them according to their ideological aims (either left, right, centrist or notpartisan). We draw on a sample size of over 30,000 BBC news and current affairs programmes in 2009 and 2015 to measure how often these think tanks were mentioned or quoted. Overall, BBC news reveals a clear preference for non-partisan or centrist think tanks. However, when Labour were in power in 2009, left and right-leaning think tanks received similar levels of coverage, but in 2015, when the Conservatives were in government, right-leaning think tanks outnumbered left-leaning think tanks by around two to one.. Overall, our findings add weight to a pattern emerging from a number of recent academic studies that show, despite its undoubted commitment to impartiality, BBC news programming has shifted its centre of gravity to the right. We argue that broadcasters need to be more independently aware of how stories emerge, and how issues and sources should be balanced and explained in an increasingly partisan news environment.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Think Tanks; impartiality; television news; sources; public service broadcasting; partisan news environment
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1461-670X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 October 2017
Date of Acceptance: 4 October 2017
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 02:31

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