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Rethinking balance and impartiality in journalism? How the BBC attempted and failed to change the paradigm
Journalism, Volume: 18, Issue: 7, Pages: 781 - 800
Swansea University Author: Joe Cable
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DOI (Published version): 10.1177/1464884916648094
This article reconsiders the concepts of balance and impartiality in journalism, in the context of a quantitative content analysis of sourcing patterns in BBC news programming on radio, television and online in 2007 and 2012. Impartiality is the cornerstone of principles of public service broadcasti...
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This article reconsiders the concepts of balance and impartiality in journalism, in the context of a quantitative content analysis of sourcing patterns in BBC news programming on radio, television and online in 2007 and 2012. Impartiality is the cornerstone of principles of public service broadcasting at the BBC and other broadcasters modelled on it. However, the article suggests that in the case of the BBC, it is principally put into practice through juxtaposing the positions of the two main political parties – Conservative and Labour. On this basis, the article develops the idea of the ‘paradigm of impartiality-as-balance.’ This paradigm prevails despite the news organisation’s commitment to representing a broader range of opinion. The paradigm of impartiality-as-balance means that only a narrow range of views and voices are heard on the most contentious and important issues. Further, it results in reporting that focuses on party-political conflict, to the detriment of a journalism which provides much-needed context.
BBC, European Union, immigration, impartiality, journalism practice, objectivity, publicservice broadcasting, religion
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
The author(s) received financial support from the BBC Trust for the research reported in this article. Funding from the Cardiff University Open Access Fund supported open access publication of the article.