Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Media Bias During Elections, Apparently

It's all in your mind. You might think certain newspapers display a clear bias in their election coverage, but according to the Australian Press Council, you're wrong :

Claims of newspaper bias towards one party during elections are perennial but unfounded, according to an Australian Press Council report to be released today.

"Regular readers ... were presented with a comprehensive and generally balanced coverage of issues and policies, parties and personalities," the research report says.

According to the report, both researchers were unequivocal in their conclusion that, in terms of coverage, balance, and fairness, no party was favoured.

But the Press Council report also states there is a "trend" towards focusing on the lead personalities of the political parties contesting elections, moreso than policy or the qualities of various parties as a whole. The Press Council report called this growing focus "presidential-style" coverage.

"What is clear is that personalities, not issues, are now central to the reporting of elections in Australia," the report says.

This had tightened control of information, with policy releases usually limited to the leaders.

"Frequently ministers and their shadows are not made available to explain or respond to questions on the impact of the proposed policies."

The researchers found that rather than being detached observers of the political process, the papers were active participants, generating a great deal of their own material in the form of editorial, analysis and opinion items and placing a heavy emphasis on opinion polls.

Of course. Analysing polls, churning out pages of opinion pieces and cramming front pages with editorials are a much cheaper way of filling all that blank space around the advertisments than actually sending reporters out into the cities and suburbs to do on the spot reporting of peoples' views and circumstances.

It is interesting to note that in the coverage of this story, they used a photo of the Piers Akerman, a notoriously pro-Howard government opinionist, who's devoted 14 of of his 15 most recent stories (listed on the Daily Telegraph site) to attacking Kevin Rudd, and repeatedly trying to link Rudd to his now unfounded conspiracy surrounding the rape of a young Aboriginal girl :

No bias from Akerman. God, no. Just a Fox News-style 'fair and balanced' approach, which for Akerman translates into a balanced range of views from 'Why You Shouldn't Vote For Rudd' to 'Why Rudd Doesn't Deserve Your Vote'.