Archive for the 'Media' Category


David Herdson on tonight’s big European election

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Who is on for douze points?

Hello and welcome once again to this European extravaganza; this celebration of all that is best and brightest about this continent; this joyous coming together of nations near and far. Oh all right, who am I kidding?

The big question of course is will Britain triumph for the first time since Terry Wogan was in short trousers – and I don’t mean the lederhosen he sported that time in … apparently I’m not allowed to tell that story. Poor Terry, sadly missed.

It is true that despite a lot of promise in recent years, Britain’s not had much success on the continent recently. Will this be the year to change all that or are we simply part of something which doesn’t suit our way of doing things, to which we’ll forever be outsiders?

Who can forget that after so many hopes were stored up last time, coming back home with a very measly return. I thought it was quite good actually but then what do I know? The problem is of course that you can’t vote for yourself and you have to put yourself in the hands of a lot of foreigners – and who’d want to do that? Having said that, there are one or two that I wouldn’t mind putting myself in the hands of but we won’t go there right now.

Returning to today’s offering, do we stand a chance of getting our way? Will we not be alone, for once or will we once again be dancing to a different beat? Going on past form, I can’t honestly be too optimistic but if there’s one thing that’s for sure, the boys flying the flag won’t be short of energy. And you never know. Some unkind people have described the offering put forward as ‘vapid bilge’. I think that’s unfair. Don’t you think that’s unfair? I think it’s unfair. Still, maybe it’s not quite a second Waterloo, if you know what I mean.

If I can be serious for a moment – don’t worry, it won’t last – I do wonder if we’ve missed how the whole thing’s changed over the last twenty years. It’s not just about the performance but it’s about the wider vision, and that’s not something we’ve done terribly well at. Maybe if we want to be more successful at this lark, we should look at what’s worked for other countries and adapt our own version of that. Just a thought.

Anyway, too late to change things for this year so just sit back and enjoy the show. And remember, if it feels like it’s been going on a long time already, just wait to see how you feel once the voting’s finished.

David Herdson, of sorts.

Eurovision takes place this evening. The EU referendum is on June 23.


If Zac loses London and the Brexiters fail it will say a lot about the declining influence of the press

Monday, May 2nd, 2016


If the London mayoral race and the BREXIT referendum go according to the betting then it will be very much against what most of the press has been promoting.

The Sadiq Khan campaign for the Mayoralty has to overcome a strong media bias in favour of Zac Goldsmith. The above from yesterday’s Mail on Sunday is typical.

The capital’s main newspaper, the Standard, has been very anti-Khan and has been more than willing to echo the Goldsmith campaign efforts to try to smear the LAB man.

It’s coverage of the election’s polls has been abominable even those which it has commissioned itself. Sometimes trying to find the key figures has been hard and there’s barely been a mention of other surveys such as the one on Friday that had Khan 20% ahead.

In the BREXIT race the line up of national papers has been very much for OUT. The Times, Telegraph, Mail and the Sun have been highly partisan and in terms of circulations totally dwarf those in favour of IN.

So if London and the referendum go according to the betting (Sadiq and REMAIN are strong odds-on favourites) it will suggest that the printed press has nothing like the influence it used to have.

It’s known that REMAIN is following the successful Tory general election campaign and making big use of social media to reach selected audiences with bespoke messages.

Mike Smithson


Read all about it. The news sources that matter nowadays

Friday, March 25th, 2016


Alastair Meeks on the media influence on the EU referendum

The EU referendum has turned into a battle between the Prime Minister and the right-leaning newspapers.  In 1992 the Sun hubristically claimed to have be the one wot won it.  Will it be the Mail wot wins the EU referendum for Leave in 2016?

The world has changed in a generation.  In 1992, five daily newspapers sold more than a million copies and the top twelve biggest selling daily newspapers issued more than 14 million copies.  By 2016, only two daily newspapers sold more than a million copies – a third, Metro, gave away more than that number.  The circulation for the twelve daily newspapers with the biggest circulation was under 9 million. (The decline in Sunday newspaper circulations is still worse, with two thirds of combined circulation being lost in the last 30 years.)  As business models go, this doesn’t look alluring.

Clearly the print market is declining.  But how are the public consuming their news nowadays?  Are they shifting to online versions of newspapers?  Are newspapers as influential as ever, but through a new medium?

This is something that Ofcom has looked at in detail recently through opinion polling.  Their slides are worth looking through in detail here:

They paint a picture of a nation whose patterns of news consumption are changing fast.  89% of the public follow the news one way or another.  Two thirds watch news on TV, over 40% get it through the internet and just under a third read newspapers for news or catch it on the radio.  Unsurprisingly, the young are much more likely to get it from the internet while the old are more likely to get news from the TV or newspapers.  But even the old are rapidly giving up on newspapers – a fifth fewer named it as a source of news this year from last.

So where specifically do the public get their news? TV and radio channels dominate the sources of news that the public names.  Facebook is shooting up the ranks (its penetration nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015).  The highest ranked newspaper, the Sun, ranks tenth with just 6% reach.  By way of comparison, the top ranked news source, BBC1, reaches 48% of adults.

But how does online content change the picture?  After all, the Daily Mail, for example, has a massive online presence so just looking at newspaper sales misses that impact.  Well, it turns out that the newspaper groups still languish.  Looking at news providers by the brand through which it is provided, DMGT comes in a fourth by audience reach at 16%, far behind the BBC at 77% and ITV at 33%.  Since DMGT includes the Metro and the Evening Standard, neither of which take the same line as the Mail publications, this 16% figure greatly overstates the potential impact of the Mail’s bully pulpit.  The next largest newspaper group is News Corp with 13% reach.  Trinity Mirror scrapes in the top ten with 8% reach.  Northern & Shell, the Express’s owners, manages 7%.  Social media garners 15% reach.  Twitter may not be Britain, but social media reaches as many people as Trinity Mirror and the Express combined.

The public were asked to name their single most important source of news.  29% named BBC1. 50% named a BBC source.  The only newspaper to reach the top ten was the Sun, with just 2%.  Just 9% named any newspaper.

OK, but surely the newspapers are disproportionately important in moulding the views of their readers?  It seems not.  59% of the viewing public think that BBC TV is trustworthy and 41% say it helps them make their minds up.  The Mail newspapers tally 41% trustworthiness among their own readers and 37% of their own readers say that they help them make their minds up.  The figures for the Sun are still worse: 23% for both measures among their own readers.  Only the Guardian and the Observer are more trusted by their own readers than the BBC is trusted by its viewers.  Most newspapers entertain rather than inform their readers, who are considerably less credulous about their contents than is commonly hoped or feared.

The following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Newspapers influence relatively few people. Their sales have been declining for a generation and their audience penetration has been dropping particularly sharply recently.  Their readers appear literally to be dying off.
  • With a steep decline in sales and audience penetration for newspapers, newspapers are chasing market share. Their editorial line is more likely to be calculated to attract reliable new readers from other newspapers (the remaining newspaper readers seem to be old and very conservative) rather than designed to influence existing readers.  It should not be a surprise to find that a business is catering to its audience rather than seeking to mould its audience to its own tastes.
  • People have always chosen the news source that suits their personal tastes and that has been made much easier with the advent of Twitter and Facebook.  But this can be overstated: in Britain, news provision is still overwhelmingly dominated by the BBC.  We are nowhere near the position of the USA, where the public picks what news it gets to hear according to political inclination.
  • If you really want to influence public opinion, go on TV.

Alastair Meeks


This morning’s Brussels attacks are a terrible tragedy not something on which to make a political point

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Clearly the news today has been totally dominated by the attacks in Brussels but, like many, I was somewhat aghast by the above Tweet by a Telegraph columnist.

This happened only hours ago and we still don’t know how many died or were injured.

To try to argue that this is for or against BREXIT is simply beside the point. How would we in the UK have felt if the 7/7 attacks in London eleven years ago had been exploited in this manner.

People on both sides of the EURef argument feel very strongly but you cannot look at the whole world through the prism of whether you are for IN or OUT.

Mike Smithson


2016 Oscar betting: Roger marks your card

Friday, February 26th, 2016
88th Academy Awards List 2016 Oscars Results Nominees Predictions Fanboys Anonymous
…….. and now for something completely different
2016 Oscars. The most competitive year I can remember and an unusual one. Nine Irish nominations in the major categories though none for blacks which has led to Spike Lee calling for ‘a blackout’. Also interesting though unlikely to cut much ice here 12 times nominated ‘The Revenant’ was the highest grossing film of all time in Russia. 
(WARNING: Just a reminder of my track record. I’m the one who in 2005 said Mike’s 50/1 shot on Barack Obama had no chance.)
Best Picture: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight.
At least six of them would be worthy winners but realistically I think it’ll be between three. ‘The Revenant’ ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Spotlight’.  ‘Spotlight’ is the story of paedophile priests abusing kids in Boston. ‘The Big Short’ is a tale of bankers doing the same to everyone else and ‘The Revenant’ is a story of revenge. ‘Spotlight’ was well told but journalists chasing a story has been done in ‘All the President’s Men’. So I’m wavering between ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Big Short’. A difficult choice but I’m going for ‘The Revenant’.
Best Actor:Michael Fassbender, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio  
Eddie Redmayne, Bryan Cranston. 
My two favourites are Fassbender as ‘Steve Jobs’ and DiCaprio as the ravaged survivor in ‘The Revenant’. So a multi-millionaire narcissist or a salt of the earth fur trapper? I’m going for the fur trapper!
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Saoirse Ronan
It just gets harder… Cate Blanchett as the predatory lesbian in ‘Carol’, Brie Larson’s chilling captivity in ‘Room’ or ‘Saoirse Ronan’s one way ticket to Brooklyn. All excellent but I’m going for Brie Larson.
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone is much more engaging as a shambling ex champ than he ever was as Rocky but Mark Rylance as the understated Soviet spy in ‘Bridge of Spies’ is magnetic. I worry that American icons start at an advantage so it’ll probably be Stallone though I’d go for Rylance.
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Rachel Adams, Alicia Viklander, Kate Winslet.
Rooney Mara was compelling as Cate Blanchett’s lesbian lover in ‘Carol’  as was Alicia Viklander as the bohemian wife of transsexual Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Danish Girl’. I’m going to go for Rooney Mara.
Best Director: The Big Short, Mad Max, Revenant, Room, Spotlight
If ‘The Revenant’ wins Best Film Alejandro Inarritu will almost certainly win Best Director which will make it two years on the trot. A very rare achievement. Second choice would be Irishman Lenny Abrahamson for the cleverly directed ‘Room’.
Animation: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There.
SeanT’s favourite ‘Inside Out’. Put your house on it.
Cinematography: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max, The Revenant, Sicario.
‘The Revenant’. Brilliantly photographed by Emannuel Lubeski. I backed him in 2010 when he lost so second time lucky?
Costume Design: Mad Max, Cinderella, Carol, The Danish Girl, The Revenant.
I loved the clothes in ‘Carol’ but ‘Mad Max’ was inspired. I’m going to go for ‘Carol’.
Documentary: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone, Winter on Fire
Amy’. An uncompromising portrayal of Amy Winehouse. A fine piece of work by English documentary maker Asif Capadia.
Makeup: Mad Max, 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The Revenant
‘Mad Max’.
Sound Editing: Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars
‘Mad Max’ or ‘The Revenant’. I’m going for the longest odds.
Sound Mixing: Mad Max, Revenant, Star Wars, The Martian, Bridge of Spies
‘Mad Max’ or ‘The Revenant’. Ditto.
Film Editing: The Big Short, Mad Max, Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars
‘Mad Max’.
Foreign Language: Son of Saul and others…
I wouldn’t normally recommend something I haven’t seen but a film maker friend almost choked watching this holocaust film. By all accounts a difficult watch but brilliant. So ‘Son of Saul’.
Original Score: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario. Star Wars
Ennio Morricone ‘The Hateful Eight’.
Production Design: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant
The whacky ‘Mad Max’.
Visual Effects: Ex Machina, Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars
‘The Revenant’ but ‘Ex Machina’ is an interesting long shot.
Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room.
‘The Big Short’ or ‘Room’. Both very good but for originality I’ll go for ‘The Big Short’.
Original Screenplay: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton
Unusual to have an animation nominated for best original screenplay but ‘Inside Out’ is exactly that. It’s a tough choice between that and the very well crafted ‘Spotlight’. I’ll go for ‘Spotlight’.
    Roger Alexander is a film-maker and longstanding PB poster. This is the seventh time he’s posted on his Oscar predictions  and his record is very good


The Independent bows to the inevitable and will stop its printed edition at the end of March

Friday, February 12th, 2016

How long before others go online only?

The big media news this lunchtime is that the Indy and Indy on Sunday will stop producing printed editions at Easter but is going to continue in an online form.

It had been struggling for some time and has seen a dramatic drop in the number of printed copies sold each day.

The I, however, will continue and is being sold.

This was inevitable. People have just stopped buying printed papers like they used to. Just take a trip on a commuter train and you’ll find very few people reading printed papers apart from the freebie, The Metro.

The smartphone is the new alternative and the Indy has developed a strongly online presence.

Mike Smithson


Why Team Corbyn might be on a loser attacking the trustworthiness of BBC journalists

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

The real problem, surely, is Labour’s poor media operation

The whole reshuffle affair has dominated the headlines for far too long and that’s not been good for the image of Corbyn’s Labour. As Damian McBride was saying in the PB/Polling Matters podcast yesterday the art of a reshuffle is to have it largely completed before word starts seeping to the media.

Instead we have had speculation going on for weeks so what should have been a 48 hour maximum story is still being discussed now.

The latest move, last night, to attack the BBC for the way it covered the resignation of one shadow minister has just prolonged things and highlighted a key problem the Corbyn’s setup – their media operation. When Seamus Milne, son of former BBC Director-General Alasdair Milne, got the LAB job he sought advice on how to do it from Laura Kuenssberg.

Meanwhile it’s worth looking at the polling. Above is the most recent YouGov “trust tracker” that I could find. It’s a bit out of date, November 2014, but it wasn’t much changed from previous surveys asking the same question. The numbers speak for themselves.

Mike Smithson


Do 1 in 5 British Muslims really ‘sympathise with Jihadis’?

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Keiran Pedley looks at this morning’s front page of The Sun and argues that we should always check the small print when reading opinion polls.

As someone that has spent most of his professional life reading opinion polls I have always enjoyed this scene from Yes Minister where Sir Humphrey explains to Bernard how to rig an opinion poll. It’s a funny scene but does demonstrate a pretty important point that all pollsters know – opinion poll results are often as much about how the question is asked as what the question actually is.

This feels particularly relevant today as the front page of The Sun screams ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims sympathy with Jihadis’. On face value, this is a very worrying finding for obvious reasons.


However, when you look at the data behind the headline things start to unravel a bit. It should be said first and foremost that polling a representative sample of a religious group is very difficult. Tom Mludzinski of ComRes and Maria Sobolewska of the University of Manchester explain why in more detail on last week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast here and Matt Singh is good on this today here too.

However, my real complaint about this poll is the complete disconnect between the wording of the question and the way the result has been displayed in this morning’s paper. The actual question wording can be found below. Keep in mind that this is the question that has led to the headline on the front page of The Sun claiming that one in five British Muslims have sympathy with Jihadis.

So what is wrong with this question? Firstly, it sets a very low bar for support. The one in five figure that The Sun quotes includes anyone that expresses at least ‘some’ sympathy with young Muslims that join fighters in Syria. However, I think that the words ‘sympathy’ and ‘fighters in Syria’ are the most important here. ‘Sympathy’ does not mean support. It can do but the link is not certain. It could just mean that they understand why a young person might go to Syria even if they disagree with the decision. Even more importantly, what should we suppose that ‘fighters in Syria’ actually means? Again, it ‘could’ mean ISIS or perhaps it doesn’t. Notice how the words ‘ISIS’ and ‘Jihadis’ are not mentioned in the poll question but are used in the headline and in this opening line of the supporting article.

This might sound very picky and pedantic but it is important. Let’s consider how an alternative question wording might have been answered.

Do you support or oppose young British Muslims leaving the UK to fight for ISIS in Syria?

1) Strongly support

2) Somewhat support

3) Neither support or oppose

4) Somewhat oppose

5) Strongly oppose

6) Don’t know

Not a perfect question by any means but you can see how it might have produced very different results to the one above. It makes the ‘fighting for ISIS’ point much more explicit.

Perhaps the question was not designed to elicit the headline that it did. This is a common problem for pollsters. We often have no control over how the results of our polls are presented in the public domain. However, in instances such as today – on such a sensitive topic and in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks – the media has a real responsibility to be careful with how it presents poll findings. I think The Sun has got it wrong this morning.

The average person on the street is not going to go to the trouble of scrutinising sampling techniques or question wording. What they will see is a headline on the front page of one of the most popular newspapers in the country that nudges to an ‘enemy within’ – with a giant picture of a knife-wielding ‘Jihadi John’ just in case you didn’t get the message. It leaves a sour taste to behonest.

In this piece I do not seek to play down the scale of the threat posed to our national security from Islamist terrorism. It is real and needs to be dealt with at home and abroad. However, the media has a real responsibility not to make things worse and today’s Sun splash was unhelpful in that regard and unjustified based on the data it was based on. After all, using the same data, it could just as easily have said ‘Just 1 in 20 British Muslims sympathise with those travelling to Syria’. I will leave others to judge why it did not.

Keiran Pedley tweets on polling and politics at @keiranpedley and presents the podcast ‘Polling Matters’