Improving BBC coverage of the Middle East and North Africa
- Loughborough experts have played a significant role in improving the impartiality of BBC reporting
The Loughborough Communication Research Centre (LCRC) is renowned for its large-scale real-time analysis of media coverage, and has been instrumental in improving the impartiality of BBC reporting of events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
In 2005, the BBC commissioned the Centre to undertake a content analysis of its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The final report concluded that the BBC did demonstrate balance in most aspects of its reportage, but that there was imbalance in some elements – for example, around the reporting of fatalities and casualties – and that little historical context supported coverage of current events.
Six years later, the Centre was again commissioned by the BBC – this time to conduct an analysis of coverage of the Arab Spring.
The remit of this ground-breaking study called for analysis of not only BBC reporting, but also BBC World broadcasts as well as those of the BBC’s UK competitors and Al Jazeera English.
The research revealed a shift in tone as events unfolded; an imbalance in the coverage of the conflicts in North African and Middle Eastern states; a lack of clarity in the use of user-generated content; a lack of historical context; and little signposting to more detailed online content.
The Centre’s studies have contributed to not only a change in BBC coverage of events in MENA countries, but to an ongoing debate about the impartiality – or otherwise – of media coverage of global events.
The Centre’s 2005 study informed the four key recommendations of the Thomas Report, calling for greater impartiality of coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 2011 study similarly influenced the BBC Trust’s review of Arab Spring reportage.
Both sets of research challenged long-held perceptions of BBC news coverage, sparking media and public debate.