The Deep Dive podcast: Laura Kuenssberg on media bias

The BBC political editor joins Ian Leslie and Stewart Wood to interrogate the idea that the British media has a political bias.

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Is the media biased towards a particular political party or position? The BBC political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, joined Ian Leslie and Stewart Wood to discuss in our new podcast strand, The Deep Dive - which looks at the big issues behind the headlines. 

Listen to this episode of The Deep Dive now:

In the interview, Kuenssberg said:

On bias in the media: “In the era we’re in at the moment, most of the papers tend to be on the right. But then you also have the Guardian. You’ve also got the Mirror. It’s not the case - and I think it’s important to make this point - that everybody thinks the same. That’s just not the case. And I think in Britain we have a sort of feast actually, if you like, of stuff that's available […] People are deciding - if they don’t like a particular point of view or a particular paper, it goes out of business.”

On the dominance of the right-wing media: “... most of the pressure on [Theresa May] is from the right, broadly, and also from inside her own party. But does that follow then that there’s bias? I don’t accept that the two things are intrinsically linked like that.”

On the role of the BBC: “We want people to watch and consume what we do but we are not trying to sell anything. So that does give us a freedom in a way.” 

On the importance of establishing political truths: “There are three things that mash up here because there’s impartiality, there’s balance, and then there is what is either absolutely true or absolutely not true. Or actually sometimes, more often in politics, has a grain of truth in it but is being used by one side or another to suit their own purposes."

On the Brexiteers’ claim of freeing up £350m a week for NHS: “The difficulty with the 350 – well, there’s two things - the difficulty with the 350 is that there’s a grain of truth in it. [...]  Technically, that was how much cash was allocated to be spent by the European Union. Now, yes, loads of it came back. Yes, it was technically never ‘sent’ to Brussels, like we don’t put a cheque in an envelope and off it goes, but technically and absolutely as a figure it was there. So it was there taken out of context but it wasn’t made up. The problem also then, for the Remain campaign, was they walked completely into the trap. They walked totally into the trap. So every time they complained about the figure, every time they bashed off a letter to the statistics authority or whatever, it worked for Leave - because what Leave wanted was people to be talking about the fact that loads of money goes to the European Union.”

On the government’s strategy for dealing with speculation: “This is the fourth Number 10 team that I’ve covered, and their attitude to all of this is very, very different - where they basically try not to respond to anything."

On covering speculative stories: “It’s worth knowing that there’s very different sets of regulation for the print press and for broadcast media. They’re different things, particularly during campaign periods. But I think the non-story that gets currency, that does happen, yeah. […] But I think stories that sometimes gain traction even though they’re not necessarily rooted in something, kind of, grainy, sometimes do so because they play to a wider truth.”

On being attacked on Twitter: “Twitter is a really interesting, useful tool. In lots of ways, it’s an exciting place to be. But it’s also a megaphone for the kinds of things people used to shout at their telly – and now they send you a message.”

On Twitter’s impact on political journalism: “I think it’s had lots of different effects. I think it’s speeded up the news cycle, for sure. You know a story can burn out in two hours and a few years ago it might have even made its way into the papers and then taken another day. I think it has, in lots of ways, given us loads of new avenues of information because politicians use it. So politicians are responding themselves and getting involved much more directly. […]  In terms of kind of calling out, holding to account, going ‘hang on, here’s a different way of looking at this’, its fantastically powerful. But in alot of ways it can be quite an ugly place, right. Because people can have a go at you.”

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