A recent segment on The One Show deployed Gyles Brandreth to the streets of Guildford armed with a clipboard of policies. He began interviewing people and asked whether they agreed with the policies, to which the majority responded with a fervent yes. After revealing the policies were those of Jeremy Corbyn, many looked in horror, with one woman adamant that it couldn’t be true.
The run up to the General Election on the 8th June has seen many spewing facts that Corbyn is unelectable, a weak leader, and will only be part of a ‘coalition of chaos’. Everyone is entitled to vote for whoever they choose, yet one thing that has become increasingly clear is that many people are basing these unsubstantiated claims on the mainstream media. Research on the influence of the mass media dates back to the mid-20th century, with the 1968 Chapel Hill Study revealing the ‘agenda-setting’ function of the media. This means that whatever the media displays as important issues at the time, media consumers will also end up listing these same issues as the most important. It is so essential for the media to be fair and balanced when reporting on political issues and events, and it is their duty to remain a watchdog for democracy, whilst also maintaining a line of communication between politicians and the public. However, this is not always the case.
LSE research found that 75% of press coverage misrepresents Jeremy Corbyn. They do this in three ways: through lack of/alteration of voice; through ridicule and personal attack; and through association, particularly with terrorism. The Independent Press Standards Organisation clearly states in its ethical guidelines that the media must make a “clear distinction between comment, conjecture and fact”. The study found that this was not followed in media coverage of Corbyn. Out of 812 articles, less than 10% showed him in a positive manner (this was across 8 media outlets of varying political stance and not limited to the right wing press). 22% misrepresented his views and policies or took them out of context completely; that figure should be at 0. The problem here is that much of the coverage simply publishes comments and conjectures as though they are facts. 30% of the coverage also stooped to ridiculing his looks and personal life, rather than offering a debate on his policies. He is repeatedly referred to as “Mr Corbean”, a “Court Jezster”, and a “Loony Lefty”. Yet many of these articles fail to substantiate these claims. Instead, they use their platform to berate Corbyn for no reason.
It is consequently very apparent that the media treat Corbyn differently. A recent Daily Mail (Britain’s second most popular newspaper) front page claimed he had “ran over a man’s foot”, despite Corbyn being a passenger in the car and evidently not driving. The same headline also claimed his new Labour manifesto would “cost every family £4,000”, a figure that seems to have been plucked from thin air. The most read newspaper, The Sun, also published an article berating Corbyn for only supporting 2 wars since 1945 (coincidentally the only wars with 0 fatalities). Despite listing several wars since 1945, Corbyn wasn’t even born until 1949 and didn’t get elected into Parliament until 1983.
The fact is, the media does not present Corbyn fairly. They misrepresent his views, taking them out of context or not even giving him a voice at all. When they choose to talk about him, they lack a fair debate any legitimate media outlet should provide and they present him as a fool and a weak leader without any evidence whatsoever. It’s hard to claim someone as a ‘weak leader’ when they’ve been elected leader of their party not once, but twice and continue to engage with the public on daily excursions around the country to talk to real people and find out what they need and want in a government.
The question is why would the media do this? A mere 7 groups account for total media ownership in the UK. Only two media companies control over half of the total UK newspaper circulation. These are Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and Lord Rothermere’s owned Daily Mail, who have both expressed ardent support for the Conservative Party. With the majority of UK media outlets maintaining a clear right-wing leaning, it suddenly becomes easier to understand why press coverage against Jeremy Corbyn is so skewed and biased.