BBC 'falling short' on nations coverage

Tom Griffin
11 June 2008

Tom Griffin (London, The Green Ribbon):
The BBC Trust has today published an impartiality report on the corporation's coverage of the component nations of the UK. It includes an interesting study by Cardiff University, whose conclusions largely chime with those of IPPR North's recent report on the post-devolution media.

When Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did make the news, coverage was more likely to involve topics such as sport and crime, rather than those policy areas that are now devolved responsibilities. So, for example, of the 161 news items about health and education in our general sample, no fewer than 160 were about England. On BBC outlets, all 136 stories about health and education were about England.
It is not simply that more stories were told about England, but storytelling often assumed an English perspective, or else an assumption that England can safely stand in for Britain or the UK.

So, for example, one of our case studies suggested that when news items were about Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, viewers were frequently reminded of this fact, while news items about England contained very few references to their location. England is, in this sense, treated as something of a ‘default’ location: audiences therefore need to be attentive during stories about England to understand that they refer to one nation rather than three or four.

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