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How well does the BBC report on devolution?

14 June 2008

Newspaper reader

Comprehensive new research from Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies has been used as part of the BBC Trust’s report on th eBBC's network news and current affairs coverage of how the UK is governed in its four nations.

Led by Dr Stephen Cushion and Professor Justin Lewis, the focus of Four Nations Impartiality Review: An Analysis of reporting devolution fell on the coverage of politics in the broadest sense. This included the impact of specific policies and debates over the future of devolution, rather than just the reporting of everyday business within Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or Stormont.

Following analysis of a wide range of BBC news outlets, as well as other broadcast news, the findings suggested that while devolution was not ignored, the great bulk of political coverage remained focused upon Westminster. It also revealed that when covered stories about devolution were often told in relation to their relevance to and impact on England in general and Westminster in particular.

The report said: "It’s not simply that more stories were told about England, but storytelling assumed an English perspective, or else an assumption that England can safely stand in for Britain or the UK. We found that any lapses in accuracy in the coverage of devolved issues tended to follow from inappropriate used of this assumption, and involved blurring of the distinction between England and the UK."

Working on behalf of licence fee payers, the BBC Trust ensures the BBC provides high quality output and good value for all UK citizens and it protects the independence of the BBC. In its report, which also draws on research by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB), and an independent review by Professor Anthony King, the Trust has concluded that the BBC needs to improve the range, clarity and precision of its network news coverage of what is happening in the different UK nations and regions.

The Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies report has been published in full by the BBC Trust.