Reshaping the BBC's news agenda
22 May 2013
A research project that helped change the way the BBC reports on political issues has been recognised for its impact at the University's prestigious Innovation and Impact Awards.
Professor Justin Lewis and Dr Stephen Cushion of the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies were awarded the Regional Impact Prize for their work which helped reshape the BBC news agenda so that programming more accurately reflects post-devolution politics in the UK.
The team was presented with the award by Jeff Pearson, Chief Executive of Geldards Law Firm in a ceremony at the University where guests included the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones. The awards are sponsored by Geldards Law Firm and Fusion IP.
Professor Lewis and Dr Cushion examined how devolution was reported in UK-wide BBC network television and radio news, BBC network factual programmes and BBC online news. They analysed more than 4,500 news items and uncovered a series of shortcomings in both the quality and accuracy of broadcast and online journalism.
These included a disproportionate level of coverage focused on London and the South East of England and few discussions or acknowledgement of the distinct policies of devolved governments.
The findings were detailed in a 102 page report which informed a series of recommendations from BBC management designed to improve coverage and to report political issues in ways that enable citizens to understand what their own governments were doing, as well as the policies and practices pursued elsewhere in the UK.
Follow-up research in 2009 by the Cardiff team showed that BBC coverage had become more attuned to the new world of devolved UK politics. There was an increase in reporting from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and BBC news outlets had begun to use a 'compare and contrast' approach when reporting differences in policy across the UK.
"As a result of our work, the BBC was able to significantly improve the quality and accuracy of their news coverage," said Professor Lewis. "Because of the BBC's reach and scope there was much wider societal impact with citizens being provided with better access to information about the nature, responsibility and outcomes of democratic decision making."
Rhodri Talfan-Davies, Director, BBC Cymru Wales said: "I think the research and the wider King Report had a profound impact. There has been a dramatic difference in the accuracy of what we do but there's also a more intelligent interrogation of the differences, the asymmetry, of the UK and the policy differences across the UK."
The Innovation and Impact Awards Competition is organised by the Cardiff University Innovation Network; the business/university network established in 1996. They provide an opportunity for Cardiff academic staff to showcase their innovative collaborations with business and other non-academic organisations, demonstrating the positive impact that universities can have on economy and society.