Too Right or best Left alone? Mainstream media spin shaping general election
As election campaigns continue apace in the run-up to May 7, British newspapers and programmers clamor to support their favored candidate and smear the chances of their opposition. But how much impact is the media war really having?
RT spoke to the editors of Media Lens, an organization which aims to outline “the systemic failure of the corporate media to report the world honestly and accurately” about where the British mainstream media is placing its emphasis – and indeed the areas it’s failing to cover.
The UK’s media outlets appear to have taken their traditional battle lines, with left-leaning titles like the Guardian and the Mirror tacitly supporting Labour, while newspapers in the grip of the Murdoch Empire – the Sun and the Times – proudly bare their true-blue stripes.
Over the past week there has been an internal whirlwind of media sniping with the BBC under fire from right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes for featuring too much coverage of Labour leader Ed Miliband, while it was revealed on Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch had chastised his journalists for being too soft on ‘Red Ed’.
But Media Lens says the traditional tribal bias is only half the story.
Editors David Edwards and David Cromwell say many of the issues which ought to be “at the heart of any rational discussion are nowhere to be found.
“There is no serious analysis of the interface between the giant global corporations that control the economy and the handful of parties that control politics.
“There is no exploration of the formal and informal ties and alliances that bind these parties with the state-corporate establishment,” they told RT.
Following the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World and the subsequent folding of the best-selling paper, Prime Minister David Cameron’s links to the Murdoch Empire were partially exposed. But years on, the links between the Conservative government and the media mogul’s UK operations are still being felt in the current general election.
Sources told the Independent Murdoch had told journalists at the Sun that the future of his company was dependent on the Conservatives winning the election and criticized them for not being harsh enough on the Labour leader.
He is reported to have spoken to journalists on a trip to London in February, where he told them that a Labour government would attempt to break up his News Corp monopoly.
A spokesman for the Sun denied the allegation, saying “As has always been the case, the Sun’s political coverage is informed by how the political parties approach the issues that matter most to our readers.”
Media Lens dispute this notion, highlighting the mainstream media’s unwillingness to rock the establishment boat and ask the real probing questions.
“Why do the main parties offer such similar policies on the big issues? Why do voters consistently have no option in choosing parties opposed to waging war on ‘rogue states’ at the behest of the United States?” Media Lens asks.
“Why are we restricted to such an obviously pre-filtered set of choices despite the equally obvious dissatisfaction of the overwhelming majority of the population? How do powerful elites manage to ensure that they retain control no matter who wins? What is the role of the corporate media in preventing the public from interfering with corporate control of society?”
Other titles have also come under fire for bowing to pressure placed on them by their financial backers. Following his resignation from the Telegraph, former senior journalist Peter Oborne revealed the extent to which the paper had doctored its coverage of the HSBC banking scandal to reflect the views of its sponsor: HSBC.
During this election campaign, however, it appears that in spite of Murdoch’s fears of a Labour bias, there has in fact been a shift of focus to the Conservatives.
The latest research from Loughborough University shows that in the last two weeks of election campaigning, the Conservative Party has gained more appearances and more coverage both on television and in newspapers.
The research takes into account election coverage on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Channel 5 as well as print coverage from the Guardian, Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Mirror, Sun, Star and Metro.
Researchers found the Conservatives were given 6.6 percent more speaking time across all television channels as well as consistently higher levels of coverage in newspapers.
But the subtle favoring of Conservative candidates appears not to have damaged Ed Miliband’s miniscule lead in the polls, with the latest YouGov analysis showing Labour leading on 35 percent, with the Conservatives edging 34.
Where the outlets have focused on the everyday squirrelling of candidates and high-profile politicians, Media Lens believe the internal sniping of the British media means a huge chunk of the debate is missing.
The editors say in spite of the huge volume of content, the press is conforming to its usual election policy – sticking to a “narrow range of concerns” which are effectively “pre-approved by corporate power.”
“Corporate power doesn't want to talk about the very real, imminent threat of catastrophic climate change, or the disasters wrecked on Libya and Syria by US-UK power, so the parties and corporate media are essentially silent on these key issues.
“Historically, foreign policy issues have hardly been discussed at election time – no matter how many people have been killed since the preceding election – that has also been true in 2015,” Media Lens states.
One area where this trope has been challenged, however, is with the long delayed publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the legality of the Iraq War. Riled by the delay, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives believe the report’s tardy publication is shielding Labour, which took Britain to war in 2003, from potentially damning criticism.
Other areas of foreign policy, however, remain conspicuously untouched.
As the election battle nears its final fraught weeks, the most pressing issues facing the electorate continue to elude the corporate media, with the focus inevitably tied to the mudslinging day to day activities of candidates and away from the bigger picture.