Media Bias Explained

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking media bias is left-wing or right wing, it is about ELITES versus the POPULATION”

the freE Press?
“Adversarial” Mainstream Journalist Andrew Neil Looking Surprisingly Friendly With Incumbent PM Theresa May at the 2017 Spectator Garden Party

Media bias is commonly discussed nowadays, but almost exclusively in terms of whether it is “right wing” or “left wing”, with people usually convinced the bias is the opposite of their own position!

We believe this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the media. Our analysis, based on Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model, indicates that the media is elite on both a structural and personal level.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an elite as “a group or class of people seen as having the most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege

Our analysis below highlights that media bias is not about the red herring of left and right, but about ELITES versus the POPULATION…

media Structure

The majority of market leading newspapers and television media are large corporations, affiliated to even larger corporations and draw most of their revenue from advertising. These profit-driven entities are embedded in a system that generates incredible wealth and status.

It would be surprising, to say the least, if these elite institutions spoke with the voice of the common man/woman. Our Evidence page affirms that they do not.

Media Staffing

A recent parliamentary report found that 43% of mainstream newspaper columnists attended private school (compared to 7% of the population) and 47% of newspaper columnists attended Oxford or Cambrige (compared to less than 1% of the population).

In addition, cursory checks on the background of high-profile journalists like Laura Kuenssberg, Andrew Marr, Brendan O’Neill and Robert Peston reveal that their parents/grandparents enjoyed positions of power in politics, business or the media and that they are married or close friends with current figures of power in politics, business or the media (click here for an overview of Marr’s connections and here for a more in-depth look at Brendan O’Neill of the Spectator).

Put simply, journalists are part of the “Establishment” they are meant to hold to account.

The Establishment Position

Given the above structural and personal connections it should be no surprise that, while there is fierce debate in the media on issues on which elite groups disagree (e.g. Brexit), there is next to no debate of issues in which the interests of the general population diverge from the elite. For example:

  • Privatisation/Nationalisation – yougov polls consistently show that more than 50% of the population think that bus companies, rail companies, energy companies, Royal Mail and the NHS should be in public hands – a huge diversion from media representation of nationalisation as a “radical position” and the political reality in which most of the above are privatised or being privatised.
  • Nuclear weapons – polls also show that twice the number of the GB population believe nuclear weapons make the world a more dangerous place than a safer place. Again, this contrasts starkly with majority media and political opinion, in which the need to renew Trident was taken as a given and Jeremy Corbyn was labelled “dangerous” and “a threat” for taking the public position.
  • Foreign Policy – Britain continues to intervene militarily in the Middle East to “combat terrorism”, this in spite of the fact that experts regularly warn that these interventions actually increase the threat of terrorism. The idea that UK policy is making domestic terrorism more likely is virtually never expressed in the media (unless the speaker wishes to be accused of being a “terrorist sympathiser”). Nonetheless, it remains the opinion of the majority of the UK electorate, with 53% of those surveyed believing that “wars the UK has supported or fought ARE responsible, at least in part, for terror attacks against the UK” and only 24% disagreeing.

All of the above demonstrates that the media is not left-wing or right-wing, it is reflective of elite interest groups who prioritise private profit and strategic power over public opinion and public wellbeing.

If you value democracy educate yourself on media bias – an overview of the propaganda model, its key filters and supporting evidence would be a good place to start!