After the non-story about presenters’ salaries, it is quite refreshing to see the much-vaunted BBC Trust actually sticking the boot in a bit.
The Beeb has been told to improve its coverage of the UK’s nations and regions in its main news bulletins and factual programmes, with the Trust accusing it of “falling short of its own high standards” and failing to meet its core purpose of helping inform democracy.
There is an element of tell us what we didn’t know about this, but it is good to get a little confirmation that it isn’t all down to basic chippy irrationality.
Research found that 37% of people believed that BBC news reports were often not relevant to where they live.
Analysis of BBC network news and current affairs programmes over a four week period in 2007 by Cardiff University found that 19% of stories involving or relating to devolution to be vague and confusing and of 136 stories about health and education, all 136 dealt with England alone.
In its coverage of UK public policies, the majority – 75% of the UK population – do not believe the BBC often makes factual errors, but a sizable minority – 17% – believe the BBC sometimes does.
On a basic level, the London and English-centric approach of the BBC often riles and irritates, in all kinds of different ways.
From sports presenter John Inverdale’s infamous “warm up act”comment during the recent Six Nations rugby tournament, to news items that might only be of interest to the south-east but which get national prominence, belief of a bias has existed for quite some time.
But the BBC is not alone in such failings.
Sports coverage invariably throws up many shining examples – indeed, although Wales won the Grand Slam during this season’s 6N the main focus of most of the national coverage was England’s roller-coaster performances. Generally speaking, the over-riding attitude appears to be that if it isn’t England it isn’t worth covering.
There is an argument to be made that such national coverage – on TV and radio and in newspapers – is merely reflecting population figures, but some of the bias is laughable at times.
Other media outlets might well be rubbing their hands at the BBC Trust’s criticism of the corporation, but the glass houses analogy certainly applies in this case.
It is ironic that when certain sections of society raise complaints regarding London-centric coverage they get tagged with being parochial by those who exhibit a mind-numbing tendency to focus solely on what happens in the capital and immediate surrounding area.
Along with a myriad other challenges national media as a whole is currently facing, providing a more regional – or “local” even – offering is one they also need address, but have rarely displayed a willingness to take on.
Yet many are predicting that such localised coverage and content is a trend few can ignore any longer.