Political column – August 27

Before the moment passes completely, let's reflect on the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and its outpouring of admiration, pride, and affection to mark her glorious reign, which brought the country together in an atmosphere of joy and unity.

Of course not everybody was celebrating, and a few thought it was all a load of rubbish and a waste of money and if they had their way there would be no monarchy and Britain would be a republic.

In writing the above I take my cue from some of the early reporting of the jubilee which sought to take an inclusive approach which reflected different strands of opinion in modern Britain.

In this way, the thinking obviously went, the reporting would be "balanced," and not just an exercise in patriotic flag waving.

However, I was very struck by a comment by a contributor to the BBC's media show on this exact issue of "balance" in reporting the jubilee. He pointed out that great sporting events are not treated in such a fashion.

For instance, with the celebrations praising the exploits of the England Lionesses we didn't get to hear the voices of, say, Scottish people who couldn't give a monkeys one way or another.

For we journalists it is a difficult area, because sometimes "balance" is just a different form of bias. This week Emily Maitlis took the BBC to task for "both sides-ism." She gave as an example the Beeb's Brexit coverage in which, she said, it might take producers five minutes to find 60 economists who feared Brexit and five hours to find a sole economist in favour.

"But by the time we went on air we simply had one of each – we presented this unequal effort to our audience as balance. It wasn’t,” she told the Edinburgh TV Festival.

There again, I have a theory that the reason the Brexit vote went the way it did is that for the first time in 43 years major news organisations were compelled to give fair and equal weight to arguments for and against the UK being in the EU.

Just report the facts and you'll be all right? Not even that is the solution. There is an anecdote of the cub reporter who was told that you should only report as fact what you can prove. Taking the advice on board, one of his subsequent snippets began: "The alleged ladies of the Women's Institute held a jam and cake sale..."

Here are some case studies of how introducing a more "balanced" approach could affect reporting of the news.

CLIMATE CHANGE JOY AS FUEL PRICES SOAR. Environmental activists expressed delight today as prices of planet-destroying fossil fuels reached new highs, raising hopes that it will persuade impoverished ordinary people to turn to greener alternatives like electric cars and ground source heat pumps. There were also positive developments at airports with massive delays for passengers seeking to go abroad on polluting flights, and some saw the error of their ways and returned home.

HEATWAVE, HEATWAVE, HOORAY! Millions of cash-strapped ordinary people have been saving on their fuel bills thanks to glorious free energy from the sun. BBC-approved economists have been consulted and advise that every day you can keep the central heating off this winter will be a bill saved.

COST OF LIVING CRISIS. A shocking new perspective from great-great-grandmother Edna Smurfit, aged 96, who tells how in their day they had no electricity or running water and suffered rationing and grinding deprivation.

TEST MATCH SPECIAL – THE BUILD UP. Excitement is mounting as the countdown continues to the crunch third Ashes test between England and Australia, with the series tantalisingly poised. Our expert panel will include former test match legends together with Bob from Bilston who thinks cricket is about as interesting as watching paint dry.

TOP GEAR. Our flagship and long running car show although it doesn't tell you anything about cars but does tell you a lot about a certain kind of man. Vroom vroom!

MASTERCHEF. This week's recipe is monkfish with kohlrabi, King Edwards cooked five ways, daikon, creme freche, anchovy butter, jaggery, and with a lash of amaretto, garnished with a squid ink tuile. Yes, it's an inspirational dish but let's face it, it's not something that any ordinary person in their right mind would ever cook.

HOUSES IN THE SUN: Lucky *******s!

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