For years the BBC has explained its disproportionate consumption of the Guardian newspaper compared with public market share by arguing that it needs to buy more broadsheet papers than popular ones to best provide news for licence fee payers. It is not an issue of left-right bias, they claim, rather a distinction along broadsheet-popular press lines. Guido has analysed new figures released by the BBC to see whether this excuse stands up to scrutiny.
Methodology: By dividing a) each paper’s percentage share of the total papers purchased by the BBC , with b) each paper’s percentage share of the public market, we get c) the BBC mind share / public market share ratio. This tells us how greater or smaller BBC consumption is proportionally compared to public consumption.
Results: As the graph above shows, BBC consumption of the Independent is proportionally over 11 times that of the public market share. Next follows the Guardian at almost 5 times. BBC consumption of the Telegraph is proportionally just 1.7 times that of the public, and consumption of the Tory establishment’s Times newspaper is proportionally just 2.5 times as much as the public. The left-wing broadsheets have a far higher BBC consumption ratio than their right-wing rivals.
However, the popular press is where the BBC really gives the game away. Proportionally its consumption of the Mail is half that of the public and its consumption of the Sun is just a third that of the public. These are by some distance the two best-selling newspapers among the general population. Yet BBC consumption of the Mirror is proportionally double that of the Sun and 1.5 times that of the Mail.
Conclusion: This analysis shows that while the BBC is right that it makes a distinction between low circulation broadsheets and the popular press, there is a left-wing bias that extends to all papers. Among broadsheets, the BBC’s consumption of the Guardian and Independent is proportionally considerably higher that of the right-wing broadsheets (Times and Telegraph). Among the popular press, the BBC’s consumption of the Mirror is proportionally considerably higher than the Mail and the Sun. The numbers clearly show that the BBC’s newspaper purchasing patterns are not determined along a broadsheet-popular divide, they are determined on a left-right political bias.