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5 March 2009 Edition

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Media View







Bono and Media Bias

MEDIA bias, real or just imagined, can twist even the most disciplined mind. I have yet to meet the politician, pundit or pub politico who does not believe that the news media has a bias, usually against the positions and philosophy they personally hold dear.
In the USA conservative talk show hosts rail against liberal media bias while the liberal minded in turn spit angrily on the nature of an establishment slant to the news media. And as a denizen of media academia I have to admit that many have forged quite successful careers in the study of claims and counter claims to bias or slant.
But what of Ireland? Many of the republican brethren have quite legitimate tales of media bias, but do they stand up to scrutiny? Last Wednesday, the Irish Times, a paper who are one of the few news media outlets to report on the Seanad, found no space to comment on the first debate in many years on tackling social and economic inequalities in the West.
Cynical republicans will no doubt see this as proof of the Times anti-republican bias as the debate was centred around the Awakening the West report produced by Sinn Féin. They too might be right, except that within the Dublin media as a whole the event was ignored but not in the west. So if there is a provable bias it is that many of our so-called ‘national’ papers are biased in favour of Dublin centred news.
This though doesn’t get the Irish Times off the hook. Last Friday was a prime example. The Irish Independent produced their first poll of the year, conducted by Millard Brown IMS and coming just after an Irish Times one two week’s previous. The Indo poll was news across the papers with front page headlines in the Examiner, Mirror, Star and of course page 1 of the Independent which proclaimed “Cowen’s big battle” but I personally prefer Page 2 of the Mirror which read, “Blundering Cowen takes a battering”.

I know many Six-County readers find the discussion of polls wearisome as they rarely happen north of the border, but we know that (a) it’s just jealously and (b) they secretly read them with forensic attention.
So why did the Times not jump on the poll bandwagon? Two weeks ago, the 13 February Irish Times TNS MRBI poll had been given front page headline in the Indo who ran with “Fianna Fáil collapse”. I know, it does stand repeated reading, preferably aloud to an audience! But maybe the Times didn’t want to have to interpret a poll that had Gerry Adams as the second most popular political leader in the 26 Counties!
Or maybe the Times was saving ink for a big weekend in Dublin’s leafy suburbs as their readers absorbed the double whammy of a new U2 album and a rugby international. They certainly rolled out the red carpet for U2 with free downloads of songs, a three-page interview, then the review itself.
The Irish Independent took a different tack and gave Page 2 coverage last Thursday to a Debt and Development Coalition protest about U2’s tax shelters in the Netherlands. The Sunday Independent followed up with a full page Brendan O’Connor article recommending that the band “put in some face time here”.
You can look at the Debt and Development coalition protest on their web site. They are running a competition for the best song about U2’s tax avoidance using new lyrics for U2 songs. I am particularly liking the “I still haven’t found my P60” adaptation.
All of this points to another stage in an ongoing battle for readers between the main papers. The recent ABC circulation figures showed falls for all papers except the Sunday Business Post. More telling for the future of print is the jump in TV news viewers. Figures comparing February 2008 and 2009 show a gain of more than 100,000 viewers for RTE’s 6.00pm and 9.00pm news bulletins. Questions and Answers have added nearly 150,000 viewers as did Prime Time and TV3 nightly news rose by 90,000. So ‘recession’ TV, biased or not, wins the day.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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