Should news outlets be entitled to a political bias?

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Modern journalism is – in theory – built on a set of values that ensure you are receiving reputable and accurate news.

Unfortunately, the accessible nature of online news, and the simple fact that a lot of people receive a significant amount of their news via social media, means that sources that appear reputable or trustworthy are often taken verbatim.

‘Fake news’, aside from being the calling card for a querulous Donald Trump when somebody prints something mean about him, has become such a significant influence on the opinion of the public, that Facebook is now actively promoting informative material on how to distinguish disreputable news sources – following accusations that the rampant circulation of fake news on their platform led to a great deal of misinformation during the US Presidential Election.

Fake news is, by nature, bias, defamatory and often created to inspire political favour. It is, to a lot of people, transparent.

But what if, what you believe to be, a reputable news source is creating content that is bias, defamatory and used to inspire political favour?

News brands and its platforms in the UK are entitled to advocate for a particular political party. How does this affect newspapers ability to be impartial, fair and ultimately accurate?

Most people associate different newspapers with their political leanings – whether it be ‘The Tory-graph’ or the slightly more liberal ‘Guardian’. For example, some will no doubt remember, or at least have read about, the fact that it was ‘The Sun Wot Won it’ for the Tories in 1992. Political bias from newspapers is not a new concept, but it seems that its potential impact is seen as far more consequential than before.

Jeremy Corbyn’s initial introduction into the mainstream political sphere was fraught with accusation and snide remarks from the media; most notably from right-wing tabloid ‘The Sun’, who have dedicated their front page to referring to Corbyn as a ‘Court Jez-ter’ and often refers to him lovingly as ‘hippy Jez’ and ‘Comrade Corbyn’.

This was, in turn, met with justified frustration from Corbyn supporters – who accused the media of representing him unfairly, in order to weaken the most significant opposition to the Conservative party.

Alternatively, others believe it’s the responsibility of the individual to remain well-informed and intelligent enough to form our own social opinions and values.

Investigations into these accusations have found this to be an accurate summary of the media’s coverage of Corbyn. Despite this, bias media platforms have yet to be held accountable for their blatant impartiality.

The political climate in the UK continues to become more heated during it’s post-Brexit, pre-General Election limbo; and even news brands who were previously considered within the impartial ‘centre’, like BBC, have been accused of falling prey to bias reporting.

Opinions of Corbyn as an individual have been beyond polarised, but lack of equal coverage of political parties continues to exacerbate. A recent study, conducted by Loughborough University found that coverage for the Conservative party dominated the media circuit, both in print and broadcast. Additionally, the Green Party, who have consistently lobbied for more recognition within the media, received less than 1.7% of political TV news coverage and only 0.7% of all political news in the national press – in spite of their recent success in the local elections.

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Over half of political news coverage in the national press was about the Conservatives

The broader implications of this data suggest that political preferences within news platforms have a negative impact on their ability to be impartial, and for us to interpret available news as accurate. When we read from a newspaper or watch a news bulletin, we trust that all relevant and factual information is presented to us within context and without agenda.

Modern journalism is – in theory – built on a set of values that ensure you are receiving reputable and accurate news, isn’t it?

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