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Backcha@t's Media Bias Survey

Yesterday's survey by Backch@t may have been as Bill Ralston said "an anecdotal snap-shot in time", but it does make for interesting reading. It may also say as much about those who were asked the questions as it does the subject itself.

Here below is The Scoop's compilation of the survey:


BROADCAST MEDIA

......................Declared leaning.................................score..........perceived leaning

TVNZ............neutral...............................................3.50....................neutral...
...............
TV3..............neutral.................................................3.79....................neutral.....
.............
RNZ.............neutral.................................................3.38....................slightly left.......
...........
IRN..............neutral.................................................3.86......................neutral

.................PRINT MEDIA .

........................declared leaning......................................score..............perceived leaning

The Herald.......neutral................................................4.50............slightly right of centre......

The Dominion...right of centre....................................5.84............slightly right of centre.
...
Waikato Times...slightly right of centre...................4.80..............slightly right of centre.

Christchurch Press...slightly right of centre...........4.81..........slightly right of centre...

Otago Daily Times....neutral....................................4.06........................neutral..

The Independent.......neutral...................................5.00.........slightly right of centre....

NBR........................right of centre........................6.72........very right.................

Sunday Star Times…swinging............................3.55......slightly left of centre..................

Sunday News.........swinging........................3.85...........neutral..................

The Listener.......left of centre...................2.13..............left of centre


The methodology was simple, people from the media, politicians and media academics were asked to rate the media on the following scale:

1.very left; 2.left of centre; 3.slightly left of centre; 4.neutral; 5.slightly right of centre; 6.right of centre; 7.very right

The fourteen media organisations were also to state where they put themselves on that scale.

The programme then collated all the answers, and assigned a numerical value from 1 (very left) to 7 (very right), with neutral 4, they then totalled up the answers, took out all the "don't knows" and arrived at an average value, which could then be translated back into a description.

What is interesting was the wide range of views.

TVNZ had 8 respondent saying it was left; 3 slightly left; 14 neutral; 1 slightly right; 4 right.

Due to the methodology used and some dubious math, the programme ended up with a value of 3.67.

Why dubious, well the explanatory note says "each figure is multiplied by the absolute value: 14 neutrals x 4 = 56, one slightly right x 5 = 5, we arrived at a total value of 110, which is divided by the number of respondents (30) this gives a value of 3.67, which is closest to 4, which is neutral."

By my count there were 32 respondents and the totals added up to 112 giving a score of 3.5, but anyway maybe I shouldn't be a pedant as I may have misunderstood the methodology and as for mathematical skills, people who live in glass houses and all that…

For those wanting to see the full survey can be found at:

http://www.gibson.co.nz/backchat/past_eps/ep14tables.html

The difficulty in such survey is the subjective nature of political opinion, the views on the Herald for instance, with 8 of those asked considering it left or very left and 14 thinking it was right or very right. At present the Herald is considered by many National MPs to be with TVNZ leading a 'crusade' against the Government. So you can guess where the 8 came from, while the 14 others were probably reflecting the view of The Herald as the 'conservative granny'.

This in turn is another problem with a survey of this nature in New Zealand, a position on the Government is considered a position on left and right, where as what may in fact be happening is a journalist has decided that Jenny Shipley is incompetent or competent.

New Zealand is a small country, just a few journalists with a strong view can set the agenda. What is one person's news judgement is another's editorial bias.

As many commentators noted on last night's programme, the vast majority of the media aim or claim to be politically neutral. This leads to a certain amount of sameness in comparison to the British media. There is also in proportion a great deal more of space and time devoted to political analysis as compared to reportage.

There is a certain attraction to the British style of very clearly defining the editorial stance and political leaning, then letting the public decide. It also allows for a more colourful media.

(On a personal note, I used to work for an agency in Britain that supplied to the dailies, sometimes I would write the same story in five to ten different ways in order to appeal to their sub-editors. May sound dull, but it was fun and goes to prove the half joke/point that the truth is the decision of a sub-editor.)

However the media in New Zealand and political perceptions of its position is a development of our history and it isn't going to change. Possibly it is of little relevance and neither the media or the politicians give the general public enough credit to sort through what is said and how it is said to make up their own minds.

But hats off to Backch@t an excellent exercise.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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