Laudes partner changes BBC economics coverage

Finance and Capital Markets

A Laudes Foundation partner has successfully petitioned the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to think differently about its future editorial positioning on taxation, public spending, government borrowing and debt. More.

Since 2020, the Economic Change Unit (ECU) has worked to instigate and influence a BBC fiscal policy content review. The conclusions of this review would secure more mainstream attention for new economic thinking and crucially help break down the narrow economic feedback loop between UK politics, media and the perceptions of public opinion.

The review found that the BBC was led by the political consensus and influenced by a small number of economic actors (for example the Institute for Fiscal Studies). It also outlined that BBC journalists share certain biased attitudes, for example “instinctively” thinking that public debt has universally negative connotations.

Throughout the review, the ECU undertook a series of activities geared towards shaping the BBC’s findings. Working in close consultation with partners active on fiscal policy, they designed a list of strategic asks summarised in three key areas:

  • BBC economic coverage is too often led by political considerations, which leads to a narrowing of the debate and a hostility toward heterodox views;
  • the range of people BBC journalists consult on economic stories is too small and insufficiently diverse; and
  • that BBC journalists often use language or framing which can create bias towards neoliberal and pro-austerity policies.

As the dominant media actor in the UK, the BBC’s editorial decisions can be considered to have an outsized role in shaping both public understanding of economic policy and political reality. Coverage of the findings was therefore also extensive: including in a prominent slot on BBC Radio 4’s flagship current affairs programme, Today, in sections of the more right-wing press and a piece about the ethics of austerity from the Progressive Economy Forum’s Director James Meadway.

The ECU will continue to work to ensure the BBC adopts the outlined approaches, including by attempting to influence the action plan which the BBC board has committed to produce, and encouraging other UK media institutions to similarly scrutinise their coverage of fiscal policy issues.

Laudes Foundation works with the ECU to help UK NGOs to collectively address the unjust and unsustainable UK economic model, which drives a complex web of intersecting economic, environmental, social and political harms.

This is the second major policy victory for the ECU in the past six months. In September it was instrumental in influencing the UK government to introduce an energy price cap.

Finance and Capital Markets