Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comparative media studies

One story, two newspapers, two angles.

The Guardian: Poorest councils will face biggest cuts

The Telegraph: Cuts in council services to be deeper in wealthy areas as Coaltion diverts millions into poorer towns and cities

Hmm. It’s almost as if the two publications have some sort of inherent political bias. But that’s crazy talk.

Anyway, I want to make another point: when you see headlines like these, using comparative words (“biggest”, “deeper”), you have to ask yourself: relative to what? What’s the other side of the comparison?

The Guardian story explains:

The poorest councils face the biggest cuts next year … Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, today allocated a last-minute emergency £85m fund in an attempt to insulate the poorest areas from the worst cuts next year. But despite his efforts, deprived inner-city areas of London and large cities in the north are facing the most drastic reductions of up to 8.9% this year alone, with the shires and county councils relatively protected by their burgeoning council tax revenue.

And the Telegraph does too:

Ministers have been able to limit the cuts with a special “transition grant” to divert £99milion of central Government funding from richer to poorer areas over the next two years. The extra cash will mean that spending cuts in areas like Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Doncaster, South Tyneside and Hartlepool will be limited to 8.9 per cent in each of the next two years.
People living in more prosperous areas will see cuts almost as big. Residents in Woking in Surrey will see cuts of 7 per cent in each of the next two years, while residents in Tunbridge Wells will see cuts of 5.9 per cent.
While the cuts in urban areas are larger than those in wealthier parts, they would have been bigger if the transition fund had not been set up.

So the Guardian is right to claim that poorer areas are having bigger cuts than richer areas, and the Telegraph is also right to claim that richer areas are having bigger cuts than they would have had were it not for this transition grant. Which is the more important comparison is up to the reading public.

(Oh look, I’ve written a post nominally about the media that in the process manages to illustrate a way in which the government is shafting the poor. It’s almost as if I have some sort of inherent political bias.)

1 comment:

Siobhan said...

Thanks for this- Even if we know there's biases it's interesting to see essentially the same information in each paper. And some incredibly convoluted headline writing at the telegraph.