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Biased BBC

The grip we have had on politics in the UK could not have been more evident than during the general election of 2005. Evident as it was, politicians would not have dared, and still will not dare, to criticise the media - and especially not the BBB - for fear of losing valuable air time. As it turned out, most of the air time was reserved for the party leaders. For the politicians, the object of the exercise was not to make a gaff. To that end they were rooted to the spot, too scared to debate or even to stray onto any policy ground. This produced a stud's campaign - stiff and sterile. This was a triumph for the party in power, of course. No policy discussion meant no examination of Labour's record - just a beauty contest. Knowing that the Liberals didn't stand a chance, we were happy for Labour, who started the campaign well in front, to shut up shop as they did. We won of course.

1. We must give political parties equal time on the air. Coaching interviewees from one party (for example, giving them an exclusive peep at the questions to be asked) is, of course, against the spirit of the rules we are bound by.

2. As we are limited on how much influence we can bring to bear at election time, it is important that the instruction given by the Partial College of Journalism is followed outside of election time. It is interesting to note that opinion polls prior to the 1992 general election gave Labour much higher ratings than they actually achieved in the real poll. What the pollsters failed to spot was the BBB's shift to the left of politics - and the resulting influence this had on voters. People were ashamed to admit they voted Tory - this is because the BBB caused it to be shameful. Although we lost the 1992 election, the difference between the actual votes and the forecast votes was a measure of the influence that we had had leading up to the poll. The fact that pollsters still need to make a "Tory shame" adjustment to this very day is a continued testament to our work.

3. Remember that, even though the rules are limiting, there are still measures that can be taken, such as pitching Tory air time against high rating shows on other channels and, of course careful attention to the news order and news juxtaposition.

Alistair Campbell
Freedom of Information

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