Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The good, the bad and the politics of the media.

The trouble (or benefit) of lengthy reports is that by being selective you can take the best or worst of the results to form the basis of any news article.

For example, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has released a report entitled "Growing Unequal: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries."

The report finds that "the gap between rich and poor has grown in more than three-quarters of OECD countries over the past two decades" and "economic growth of recent decades has benefited the rich more than the poor"

However, if you study the details it reveals that Britain is one of the countries where income inequality has decreased since the mid 1990's.

Despite this, the shortening has not outweighed the big increase in inequality that took place between the mid 1980's and the mid 1990's, and therefore over the whole period (mid 1980's to mid 2000's) income inequality has increased slightly.

So the report produces positives and negatives.

Now, depending on your politics you could take two approaches: One would be to acknowledge the recent decrease in the UK since 2000, which the report’s author, Mark Pearson, describes as ”remarkable”. However this would mean, by implication, that you accept that the decrease has taken place under the current Labour government.

The other approach would be to concentrate on the whole period covered by the report, which, although technically correct, glosses over this reduction.

Let’s see this in action, with two news sources reporting the results:

First, the BBC, with the positive slant:

“The gap between rich and poor in the UK has decreased since 2000, an international survey has concluded.”

Now the Telegraph, with the negative approach:

“The gap between rich and poor people in the UK is one of the widest in the developed world, a report has found.”

This means the right-wing leaning Telegraph, although they do acknowledge the recent UK decrease further on in their article, has avoided concentrating on any possible Labour success.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But I’m not so sure.

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