With the upcoming election, the role of the media is key for political coverage and our parties to get across their message, and indeed questions have been raised over the relative bias of the media and whether it serves to manipulate the electorate. Indeed, ownership of traditional mass media is chiefly concentrated in the hands of rich, oligarchical upper classes, most notably Rupert Murdoch and his stronghold on mass media, and some have put forward the case that the media’s coverage of political issues acts in the interests of the establishment. But is the media a fair and accurate source of political information that educates our electorate, or is it a biased and misleading vehicle that blindly disseminates the establishment’s agenda and that serves to manipulate the political attitudes of electors and create false class consciousness?

Whilst many erroneously perceive the print press to be a mostly impartial distributor of political information, it is a brazenly partisan form of political campaigning that upholds the interests of the establishment and takes an adversarial approach to parties that threaten their interests and distorting their message to a susceptible readership. The vast majority of newspapers are on record as endorsing the Conservative Party, and considering print media is mostly run by oligarchical barons such as Rupert Murdoch, it is unsurprising that the print press use their vast influence to promote the Conservative Party’s agenda of privatisation, austerity and tax cuts for the richest groups in society, whilst frequently demonising parties which challenge the political status quo, most notably Labour. Indeed, independent enquiries conducted by think tanks and the LSE have shown that newspapers have taken a particularly unfair, antagonistic tone in their reporting of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, portraying him as an old, entrenched Anti-Semite who covertly endorses terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, despite there being little evidence to support the majority of smears levelled at him. Whilst all Conservative-leaning newspapers have frequently peddled this fundamentally untrue and almost libellous narrative of Corbyn being dangerous to society, the Daily Express has been particularly virulent in their treatment of Corbyn. Indeed, as of 2017, 0% of Express articles presented Jeremy Corbyn's views/policies without any alteration and 63% of Daily Express articles scathingly denoting him as a danger, whilst 80% of articles by The Daily Express have also been found to delegitimise his message through ridicule and scorn, compared to the markedly lower figures for Conservative Party figures. 

Similarly, within all print press articles released in the last three months, 1,450 focused on Jeremy Corbyn and anti-semitism, whilst a mere 164 focused on institutional Islamophobia within the Tory Party, despite the independent Jewish Policy Research concluding that Anti-Semitic attitudes were considerably more prevalent within the Conservative Party than within Labour and 42% of Conservative members believing that ‘a variety of racial backgrounds’ has damaged Britain; this exceptionalisation of Labour antisemitism and relative omerta towards endemic Conservative Party racism has manifested itself in only 7% of Jews backing Labour in the recent Jewish Chronicle survey, which further illustrates the dangers of our biased media in terms of skewing political attitudes. Furthermore, the contrasting treatment of Neil Kinnock & Ed Miliband, compared to Tony Blair, whose neoliberal New Labour agenda aligned much more with the interests of the oligarchical print press, illustrates the immense bias of the mainstream media and its ability to skew perceptions of political figures and parties. Indeed, the 1992 Conservative majority of 21 and the 2015 Conservative majority of 12 was widely attributed to The Sun’s hostile and mocking coverage of Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband (‘it’s the Sun wot won it’), as on the day of the 1992 and 2015 elections, the Sun ran damming headlines such as ‘if Neil Kinnock leaves, will the last person to leave, please turn out the lights’, and a 2015 headline stating ‘save our bacon’, next to an inordinately unflattering picture of Ed Miliband, the Labour party leader at the time. Conversely, Blair, who garnered Labour their biggest post-war majority of 179 in 1997, worked to secure the backing of Rupert Murdoch and the mass media, which resulted in significantly more flattering coverage of him (seen through the ‘The Sun backs Blair, give change a chance’ headline on the day of the 1997 elections), which arguably attests to the power of print media to shift political attitudes. Ultimately, most of the press media concentrates chiefly on propagating myths about left-wing figures, whilst promoting the Conservative Party, whose policies defend the entrenched economic order which favours the oligarchical elite and thus align much more with their own interests.

It would be reductive to merely look at the blatant myths disseminated by the establishment print media, when flagrant bias permeates throughout the mainstream media and indeed broadcast media is no exception. Whilst TV media institutions such as the publicly funded BBC are legally expected to be politically impartial under its charter and are expected to offer regular and impartial news broadcasts to keep citizens informed and political programming, such as Question Time and Newsnight, there has been a worrying trend of partisanship for a supposedly politically neutral media. 

Whilst holding all our leading politicians to account is vital, programmes such as Dispatches and Panorama (on the publicly funded BBC, which is supposed to be a non-partisan broadcasting service) have arguably become the basis for further media political smears under the guises of investigative journalism, with Panorama facing public criticism after airing an investigative, arguably biased documentary on Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, that was said to have numerous factual inaccuracies by both Labour commentators and independent bodies and that was presented by John Ware, a journalist with a history of anti-left hit pieces. This bias even bleeds through into our news coverage. Indeed, a Cardiff University found that the BBC is 19x more likely to interview business representatives than trade union voices and a later study by Birkbeck University found that evening news bulletins on both the BBC & ITV gave nearly twice as much unchallenged airtime to sources critical of Jeremy Corbyn, than those that supported him, and that those who supported him were consistently branded as ‘far left’, which again reflects the disproportionate bias within broadcast media. Furthermore, there has been an observed trend within BBC bulletins of extensively drawing on left-wing antisemitism whilst neglecting to examine the more prevalent problem of right-wing Islamophobia, as well as  linking Corbyn with weak leadership and a lack of credibility, with Birkbeck University also noting the commonality of Corbyn being branded as “awkward”, “laughing stock” and having “no authority” were used repeatedly without qualification. It should also be recognised, Laura Kuennsburg, the current political editor for BBC news, has been found guilty of breaching impartiality and accuracy guidelines by misrepresenting Jeremy Corbyn by the BBC trust regulators.


Ultimately, mainstream media has a duty to deliver fair political coverage, which scrutinises all political figures, whilst still presenting them and their views in a fair and accurate manner, and no matter what your political leanings are, it is clear that both forms of traditional mainstream media have failed in that regard.

Jamali Blair,

Wallington County Grammar School