Balance and bias in Radio Four's 'Today' programme during the 1997 General Election campaign
This research considered aspects of balance and bias in radio broadcasting, focusing on thirty-nine editions of the Today programme (Radio Four) during the last general election campaign period. The rationale for such a selection was that during a campaign, broadcasters are under the greatest obligation, both morally and legally, to ensure overall 'balance' in their coverage. In Chapter One, a literature survey compares different perspectives on balance and bias, both professional and academic, and relates them to public controversies about political coverage in the period preceding the election. In Chapter Two, the survey extends to interviewing techniques and the presence of confrontation in political interviews. Both chapters set Today in a wider context. Chapter Three considers the research methodology. Attention is paid to the potential for reflexivity in such an analysis, and the possibility of textual readings being distorted through additional hermeneutic layers. During the campaign period, a self-selected but coincidentally representative group of listeners provided both quantitative and qualitative feedback via an original questionnaire. This is reported in Chapter Four as producing some interesting conclusions about audience reading of radio texts and perceptions of balance and bias. These data were compared with readings by a party political monitor whose role during the campaign was to analyse political coverage on Today. Chapters Five and Six present a detailed textual analysis, by both quantitative and qualitative means, of the programmes themselves. Emphasis is placed on the objective rather than the subjective, determining common points of reference and comparing like elements. Finally, a number of specific conclusions are reached, about the conduct of the programme makers themselves and about more general practices in political coverage by broadcasters.