Morning Ireland Bias...?
Updated: Jun 29, 2018
To what extent is media coverage and representation of political opinion determined by cultural bias on the part of journalists? With 423,000 daily listeners, RTE's Morning Ireland remains Ireland's flagship current affairs radio programme. But just how balanced and free from bias is this publicly funded RTE news and current affairs service?
New-Ireland put Morning Ireland to the test and tracked the airtime given to politicians from various political groups over the period 1st September to 1st December, 2017. The results were then compared to the actual political representation of these same political parties as measured in the 2016 General election. Do all political parties receive airtime which broadly reflects their actual political representation? The results make for interesting reading...
Firstly, no one would expect that airtime would match political representation exactly. Indeed, it's hardly surprising that political parties who are in government receive greater airtime. This is very much the case with this survey showing Fine Gael enjoying 48% more airtime than their representation would suggest. Their partners in government the Independent Alliance enjoyed an even greater media bounce (115%). With just 4.21% of the popular vote they received 9.06% of airtime.
Not surprisingly, opposiition parties tend to receive less airtime than their representation would suggest. However, there are some interesting variations to this depending on the political grouping. Independents, while receiving 11.13% of the popular vote in the 2016 General Election, ended up with a paltry 0.55% of airtime for the period studied. Obviously, not being members of a defined political party with its own press and media operations has contributed to this. However, you also have to wonder whether the view in Donnybrook is that while the 11% of the electorate who voted for Independents may be very interested in things like potholes, they probably have little interest in anything else outside of purely local matters and so it's perfectly reasonable to exclude the diverse views of over a tenth of the voting public from any national debate. The bigger question here is if media coverage is driven by the need to articulate diverse opinions and viewpoints or, as it would seem, is it driven by the ready availabilty of spokespersons from political parties and organisations?
Interestingly, some opposition parties bucked this trend of under-representation and actually received more airtime than their 2016 political representation would merit. The Green Party was the only political party for whom both political representation and airtime corresponded having received 2.72% of the popular vote in the 2016 GE and 2.8% of airtime. The Social Democrats received 3.01% of the popular vote yet they received 4.21% of airtime giving them a 40% media bounce. Likewise, the Labour Party with 6.61% of the popular vote ended up receiving 9.16% of airtime giving them a media bounce of approximately 38%.
Given the media exposure of parties such as the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and to a lesser extent, the Green Party, the more important question to be asked is - is there a cultural soft left bias evident in publicly funded media organisations such as RTE?