Politics, media and the effects of bias…

This discussion on the influence of the media (8mins 30 in) on the Tubridy Show this morning is well worth listening to again (though for the huge amount of time they get, it doesn’t cover a huge amount of ground). The panel is impressive enough: Paddy Prendiville of Phoenix magazine, Richard Delevan of the Sunday Tribune and Sarah Carey, of well Sarah Carey and the Sunday Times. There is an interesting argument over the terms bias and agenda, mostly because they get used interchangeably. Indeed well on into the debate Delevan and Prenderville resort to a verbal sword fight over the issue. Paddy reckons it is perfectly possible to identify each newspaper’s political bias and categorise in terms of their slant towards a given political party; Richard argues that such a view is insulting to anyone in the business who tries to do a good job of reporting the news, bias and all.

Sarah adopts a Guido-esque argument and reckons that a journalists bias or agenda is less damaging than getting overly dependent on prolonged relationships with people in power.

What I had hoped for, but which didn’t really materialise was the crucial question of just how much influence does the media actually have on the outcome of political elections?

  • Aquifer

    “Paddy reckons it is perfectly possible to identify each newspaper’s political bias and categorise in terms of their slant towards a given political party”

    So if people ‘see it coming’ all the ethnic indignation, all the sectarian spinning, may be a waste of time and trees?

  • Nickyg

    The media is the most powerful tool any particular agenda can have in it’s corner. Individual editors, papers and opinionmakers, certainly, but if they coalesce that is extremely powerful.

    ..and sinister. For all the pontificating of the self righteous columnists, they are in effect no better than a information based junta, at times. Using a great pOwer given to them by no-one to influence issues from thier self made pulpits.

    The Independent group is stooping to a new shameful low of undue inflence (almost brainwashing)by attempting to artificially foist stamp duty on the agenda of the election campaign in the south. Why, because several of their well to do, holier than thou writers, columnists and cohorts are having a bit of bother making the large sums of money they hoped for on resale of their property! Absolute sickening hypocricy, and conflict of interest!

    Furthermore, the powers that be in Britain saw the whole arena of information management as a viable na effective tool for their “propagabda war” and the augmentation of thier policies of criminalization, ulsterization etc gives us an idea of the true potency of this pillar of the state: the peoples sources of information on which they base their choices.

    The most bare faced example of the undue and unwarranted power of unelected editorial dictators can be seen in the way British parties court the red tops, and in particular the Sun.

    Does it not resonate with any person of conscience when we consider the implications of the famous, self effacing headline: “IT WOZ THE SUN WOT WON IT”

  • Mick Fealty


    Sadly the discussion never seemed to get off that particular hook.


    That headline was in mind for a lot of that discussion. But was it actually true they won it, or clever editorial positioning on their part?

    Although it is clear that Blair assiduously courted the Tory media (even Paul Dacre who clearly loathes both the British PM and his missus), also I get a sense that papers like the Sun just like to be on the winning side, rather than being an instrumental part of any win. I knew several people who bought the Sun right through the 80’s, and voted Labour for instance.

    Of course, it would be mad to say they don’t have an influence and, on occasion, a very powerful one. Yet our politicians are (or should be) the ones with the executive power in government not newspaper proprietors, I’d like to see someone detail their reasons for believing that the media is more powerful than members of the government.

  • Mick Fealty

    Actually this set of charts from the paper round tells you more about our newspapers than any categorisation of their bias.

  • Pete Baker


    An interesting point made at the conclusion of Adam Curtis’ The Trap was that government, politicans in general, had surrendered any potential ability/power to affect/change society, not to the media per se, but to the market.

  • Nickyg


    Well I suppose if we devised a ratio of power in relation to accountability, then the power of the media mogul would be greater than that of the elected politician. If not in terms of executive capability, then certainly in terms of influence.

  • Niall

    I think Irish newspapers’ insistence on ‘objectivity’ in news reporting can sometimes be more damaging than the bias of their opinion columnists.

    Sometimes just presenting the ‘facts’ isn’t enough to convey what’s going on in a story. You just get two sides to an argument giving a very carefully constructed response, each of which can be orchestrated to appear reasonable.

    In Irish news reporting culture journalists are curtailed from revealing their opinion on a certain issue, thereby making any potential spin they put on a story (either consciously or unconsciously) go unacknowledged.

    Take France or Spain, for example, where newspapers wear their bias on their sleeve. At least you know what your getting from an ideological point of view, but this should not (in theory at least) prevent the papers from presenting both sides of an argument.

    In my view balance is more important than ‘objectivity’, which really translates as ‘neutrality’, which can make for a bland and inoffensive reporting style that can be manipulated by clever politicians.

    This acquiscence to ‘objectivity’ (or obfuscation of allegiance) in news reporting is more evident in the South, as Northern papers usually wear their tribal allegiances on their sleeve.