In its Statement of Promises,
the BBC commits to impartiality and accuracy. On 15 September 1999,
New Alliance researchers tested these claims. They visited BBC Online's
Euro Home Page and checked twelve articles listed. Two less prominent articles were later analysed. The results are given below. MARKED BIAS Unions back moves towards euro
In its Statement of Promises, the BBC commits to impartiality and accuracy. On 15 September 1999, New Alliance researchers tested these claims. They visited BBC Online's Euro Home Page and checked twelve articles listed. Two less prominent articles were later analysed. The results are given below.
Unions back moves towards euro(15-9-99)
Slanted firmly towards the 'Euro' camp, both in degree of coverage and tone. Gave no real substantiation of the claims either for or against the Euro, especially John Edmonds' (GMB) claim that a Britain would still have full control over public spending inside the Euro regime (cf. rules restricting public sector deficits).
It put a counter-argument against only anti-Euro Bill Morris (TGWU) who had claimed that "hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs were at risk"
Pro-Euro bias evidenced by Sir Ken Jackson (AEEU) - "the debate on Europe had [been] hijacked by anti-Europeans calling themselves Eurosceptics".
The title was factual though, as the vote was only for retaining the option of joining.
Blair opts to delay E-day (1-12-98)
One-sided and propagandistic. The Prime Minister and his cabinet "soon came to regret" deciding not to join, as this contributed to the strength of the Pound. The decision, in October 1997, was not hard and fast, and no resulting benefits were given (e.g. cheaper imports).
The issue is the Euro's weakness as a world currency, as the Pound had stayed stable against the US Dollar.
Nor was it true that the UK would not be involved in "important discussions" on the Euro. The UK is being consulted by the Finance Ministers'/Euro-X committee.
The article slates William Hague, who, in spite of winning an 84% backing for a continuing policy to stay out, is compared to Tory Europhiles who are "far better known than Mr. Hague"
Small business case study: Eurocool (1-12-98)
Totally one-sided and strangely reasoned. The article paints pictures of a "cool" "international" "Internet" company run by young go-getters. But how does the pro-Euro rhetoric square with the facts?
Eurocool is an Internet-sales company trading with EU countries, where consumers regularly ask for prices in their own currencies. The Euro was described as "a financial renaissance" that would "change the way Europeans do business forever".
The article claims that European consumers will be able to compare prices more easily, which is "bound to stimulate international trade". Yet the Internet readily allows local prices (whether in Euros or DM, etc) to be displayed. This in itself is hardly demand for Euros, as they did not exist on 1.12.98! Nor should it affect the volume of trade, however the article closes with the warning that if small businesses fail to adjust to the Euro they will be "left out in the cold".
Strangely Eurocool has a Euro account for billing customers, although payment was "limited to cash and cheques". However the fact that "cash" Euros will not exist until 2002 was omitted.
The complaint about the banks' lack of Euro services, such as accepting Euro credit card payments has been checked on 1.11.99 with the Bank of England and a credit card company who found it strange! Payments in ecu's, the name for the Euro before 1.1.99, have been possible for years, and the Euro is handled like other foreign currencies on credit cards.
UK business and the euro debate (2-3-99)
A peculiar article with an even odder punchline. Writer Rodney Smith is also wrong in claiming that Britain voted to join the EEC in 1975; the vote was on staying in.
Although he highlights the depth of business opposition to the euro, he changes course totally and says "It's not concerned with the loss of the Pound". Apparently it is concerned that the "EU model" is falling apart, contrasting France and Germany's fortunes, and an ever-weakening Euro lies on top of the straining European economy.
Bizarrely, without giving detailed reasoning, he concludes that Britain should be in (the Euro) as it "....could then become part of the solution...take a lead, rather than being a mere observer of the problem".
This matches his opening remark that "Britain used to be proud of leading on many issues....but all that has changed." In the absence of argument, this can only be seen as propagandistic in intent.
Weighing up Britain's euro odds (22-12-98)
The text does not actually match the title. The author was BBC International Business correspondent Peter Morgan. It builds up glowing images of big business support for the Euro; only having a small customer base and being unable to export outside. He even concludes that staying outside will not protect us from economic problems elsewhere in Europe, without considering the wider picture (e.g. mitigation outside)
British membership "can't come soon enough" for a yacht builder, who sees a market of 290m people for the Euro, 60m for Sterling. That a Single Market of 370m people might exist is conveniently not considered.
The comment "In fairness there's no evidence to show that Britain has lost out from its euro-abstinence" must be weighed in the light of the fact that the Euro technically did not exist at the time of writing! Morgan does highlight the Institute of Directors' opposition, although the fears of inappropriate interest rates, higher taxes and more regulations through the Euro are worded speculatively.
Morgan is more bullish that Britain's economic future is tied to continental Europe's.
This article was the only one not to mention the euro; it concerns the institutional mechanisms for passing laws. Coverage was essentially one-sided.
It only featured one 'Sceptic', the little-known Oliver Letwin MP against the three political pro-EU "heavyweights", Robin Cook, Sir Leon Brittan and Kenneth Clarke. The latter insinuates that problems have been due to the Westminster Parliament's inadequate participation in 'Europe'. Letwin is merely quoted on the inadequate time to scrutinise European legislation, and the scrutiny is said to be of little effect.
His view that the European Commission should be abolished is dismissed as "not an option". Leon Brittan is allowed to claim, rather gratuitously, that the Commission will operate in a manner pleasing to national governments.
Irish lessons on the euro (18-5-99)
This strange article began "The close economic relationship north and south of the Irish border should provide useful lessons for the rest of the UK." and stated that it would be "a key indicator" in the UK's possible membership of the Euro. However no clear arguments on this theme were given, and the reader is left to draw conclusions based on the following.
Sterling's strength has been making Northern Irish exports to the Irish Republic less competitive. Bank of England deputy chairman Mervyn King told Northern Irish businessmen he could not help the province if it was not in the interest of the UK as a whole. He differentiated between the needs of international and domestically focused customers.
He warned of a weaker Pound and interest rate cuts boosting domestic demand, increasing inflation and costs, and undermining competitiveness.
The article's undercurrent is that "Having the Pound (weak or strong) will be a problem", and nothing was said about the strong Pound making imports of raw materials, etc cheaper
Euro case study: Marks and Spencer (1-1-99)
This is, until the end, a straightforward article on how M&S are coping with the Euro. The article ends with the claim that "it could be a godsend for shoppers...easier to compare prices across different countries...can vote with their feet... companies will be forced to respond with even more competitive prices". In the world of high street retail, customers are unlikely to cross the Channel every time they wish to make a basic purchase; in the e-commerce of the future, on-line prices will easily be comparable.
The parties and the single currency (8-12-98)
Most of the coverage is fair comment. BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley comments that the Euro is a highly political debate, not just economic.
However bias is shown in stating that William Hague has "a vested interest" in the failure of the single currency. His actual position was to rule out UK membership for two Parliaments (and not beyond this). This is not tantamount to wanting the Euro to fail.
Describing the business community as "largely though not exclusively" pro-Euro in the absence of objective supporting evidence might also be seen as biased.
Consumer euro know-how(1-1-99)
Not listed on the main page. Although even-handed on exchange-rate movements, there is no evidence to back the assertion that the introduction of the Euro will make it easier to move into new markets or give consumers more choice and lower prices. For instance this overlooks the costs of having to cut over to the Euro and operate dual pricing for now.
The alleged threat of increased competition resulting - "This may put your company out of business - and you out of a job" is not explained. Nor is supporting evidence given for the threat of tax harmonisation across the euro-zone. This is part of separate EU initiatives on Economic and Monetary Union, and is not a requirement of joining the single currency.
These loaded statements effectively cancel out, resulting in no overall bias.
Euro fault lines (2-6-99)
Not listed on the main page. Balanced overall, the issue is more accuracy than bias - some of the comments about central bank independence and decision-making need revisiting. The comment about finance ministers influencing the European Central Bank is at odds with Treaty requirements.
UK's euro chances slipping (31-5-99)
The only sign of bias might be the title - it has been commented that "chances" sounds more opportunistic than "possibility", and "slipping" makes this sound like a missed opportunity. The text was objective, though.
The UK and the euro referendum (1-12-98)
Question and Answer in format, impartial in tone.
However, their answer to a question about the 1975 referendum needs revisiting. They simplified the question to "Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community?".
The wording actually began "The government has recommended that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Economic Community". Apart from recalling the question referred to the 'Common Market' as well as the word 'Economic', government support is an issue.
Other research has shown that government backing might be worth 8% more votes for a 'Yes' campaign. It would also have been useful to cover the government's plans to limit spending.
Divided they stand (1-12-98)
A mainly straightforward account of the Euro transcending party lines. References to the Euro-sceptic Rupert Murdoch as "Australian-born American-turned" might be seen as xenophobic by some, implying that he's a "foreign interloper"
Five of the articles were seriously one-sided and another four were found to contain some bias, all towards joining the Euro. Of the five articles judged to be balanced, there were some reservations about perceivable bias in two (although the benefit of the doubt was given), and inaccuracies in the other three. Many assertions were made without supporting evidence.
Although most of the articles did state arguments against the Euro as well as for, the first three covered did not, giving rise to questions about intent as well as practice. As a public corporation that is supposed to be committed to impartiality and accuracy, the BBC falls seriously short of an acceptable standard. Continuous monitoring needs to be backed up with public complaints and supporting publicity.
To read BBC Online articles, use the on-line search with the keyword 'Euro'
or start at web-page: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/events/the_launch_of_emu/the_uk_and_emu/
(note the use of underscores in the URL)
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This page updated: 2 November 1999, links updated 30 August 2002