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31 January 2023

Radio 4 offers BBC staff a chance to “get your head around the economy”

Are W1Aers sure they understand how debt works?

By The Chatterer

Overheard on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “Now,” said host Martha Kearney, “here’s Felicity Hannah to help you get your head around the economy.”

The Chatterer can’t have been the only listener to sit up and pay attention to the plug that followed for Hannah’s Radio 4 and BBC Sounds show, Understand: The Economy.

Promoting the show, Hannah asked: “Are you confused by the prices we pay for things and exactly how sales work? Maybe you want to know what credit is and how we use it? Or perhaps you’re baffled by rising gas and electricity bills?”

The Chatterer wonders how many of the BBC’s own staff might be advised to tune in. Yesterday a BBC-commissioned report found that too many of the corporation’s journalists “lack understanding of basic economics”.

The review’s authors, Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot, the creators of Radio 4’s More or Less, identified several weaknesses in the BBC’s coverage of the economy. Reporting on debt was highlighted as a key issue. “We think too many journalists lack understanding of basic economics or lack confidence reporting it,” the report said. “This brings a high risk to impartiality.

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“In the period of this review, it particularly affected debt. Some journalists seem to feel instinctively that debt is simply bad, full stop, and don’t appear to realise this can be contested and contestable.”

As luck would have it, next week’s line-up on Understand: The Economy includes an episode on national debt. It promises to explain: “Why do we have national debt, how much do we owe, and should we worry about it?”

W1Aers: you can tune in at 1:45pm next Wednesday or listen to the whole episode now on BBC Sounds.

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