Menzies House on Finkelstein. Read and compare

I swear, it would be hard to make this kind of thing up. First, at Menzies House:

However, what is interesting is the dirty little trick Mr. Finkelstein used.

Mr. Finkelstein pointed out that only 21% of Australians agree that the media reports all sides of the story (at paragraph 4.27).  In the next paragraph (4.28) he comments that a different study found 72% thought that the media was fair to the Coalition, and only 55% to Labor. The next paragraph (4.29) cites another study that 62% of Australians believe that newspapers are biased against Labor, and even 42% of non-Labor supporters agree with this.

The implication from context is clear: the media biased to the Coalition which is why we need to take action.

Except for one thing. The polls showing a pro-Labor bias were from… wait for it… 1966 and and 1976. That’s right, they are decades old.

Oh noes, thinks the reader. Finkelstein used surveys that are decades old, to prove that the media is biased today. This is what the report says (paras 4.27-4.29):

4.27 A 2011 survey by Essential Media found that only 21 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that the media usually report all sides of a story, and 69 per cent disagreed. In a separate survey by Schultz in 199215 journalists had a much more positive view with about three-quarters saying the level of objectivity in their organisations was about right.
4.28 Concerning political bias, when asked in a 1966 survey by Western & Hughes whether newspapers were generally fair to Labor, 55 per cent said yes, but 72 per cent said they were fair to the Liberal and Country parties, journalists had a much more positive view with about three-quarters saying the level of objectivity in their organisations was about right.
4.29 A 1976 survey by Saulwick, which explored the topic of political bias in some depth, found 58 per cent of respondents believed newspapers were biased in their presentation of political news, of which 62 per cent indicated the bias was against Labor. Even 42 per cent of non-Labor voters said the newspapers were biased against Labor. In contrast, only 17 per cent felt the ABC TV political news was biased and their opinions on the direction of the bias for or against Labor were equally divided. A majority (52 per cent) said that political news on commercial television was unbiased; most of those perceiving bias felt it was anti-Labor (a view shared by 39 per cent of non-Labor respondents).

Um… so what is the dirty trick? That it explicitly identifies surveys from 1966 and 1976? Para 4.25 says “there is perception of persistent bias against the Labor Party particularly in polls conducted in the earlier years of the period covered by this analysis.” The report goes on to note the allegation from the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism that News Ltd papers “campaigned” against Labor’s climate change policy.

The responses are quoted

Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian said20
The carbon tax is one of the biggest concerns for business in this country and it is only proper that a newspaper such as ours reports those concerns. :
4.36 The editor of the Herald Sun was more forthright21
Newspapers have a role to play in informing people but they must also campaign against those things the public don’t want.

It then notes Manne’s study – and that Paul Kelly didn’t reject his findings about bias.

Anyway. I don’t support the Finkelstein report’s recommendations. In fact, I strongly oppose them. I just think people should write honestly about what the report actually says, though I guess it’s not hard to understand why some people are reluctant to do so.

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