Friday, September 25, 2009

Fact or Opinion?

Decent news reporting is supposed to report facts, and include opinions clearly flagged as such. And we're probably entitled to expect this more from a public service broadcaster than from, say, a tabloid newspaper.

I'm not naive anough to believe that this principle is rigorously upheld, but two bits of BBC reporting have got up my nose this week.

Firstly, the repeated mantra that "Everyone now accepts that there must be cuts in public spending." Excuse me, but I don't. If you mean "Every leader of a mainstream political party, plus a great chunk of rent-a-quote bourgeois hacks and economists now agree that there must be cuts in public spending", then say so.

Secondly, the constant reference to "Britain's nuclear deterrent" in reports about Gordon Brown announcing a reduction in nuclear-armed submarines from four to three. Whether Britain's nuclear weapons are in fact a deterrent is a matter of opinion not of fact. The appropriate noun in this context is "missiles", "weapons" or perhaps "arsenal".

I'm happy to confess to being a pedantic nerd about matters of words, but this is not just semantics but politics.