Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

When “news” isn’t news, and “no news” is

I had no work to go to today, and so unusually I got quite a different slant on the news to what I usually do. I had breakfast to the ‘wallpaper’ of BBC Breakfast – although (I guess like many thousands of people) I wasn’t paying much attention. It seemed to be talking about local authorities and the need to make cuts in spending. The figure that stuck in my mind was “25,000 job losses”.

As the day went on and I did errands running around in the car I heard snatches of radio repeating this – again on BBC radio – this time Nicky Campbell’s phone in asking “Where do you think the axe should fall”. A clear message was coming from the programme that councils around the country were going to have to cut spending because the Government was going to cut the cash going to local authorities.

I didn’t pay it much attention – didn’t have time – but made a mental note to check it out on the web (which is where I normally get my news) when I got home.

Along the way I spotted Gordon Brown in the bank. Yes really ! He was actually on the telly – (BBC again) making a speech from Reading about fighting crime The Press Association: PM outlines plans to fight crime in which among other things, he debunked some of the myths about crime statistics which the Conservative Party have in the past been accused of making misleading claims about. This was reported quite significantly by the BBC :BBC News – Chris Grayling use of crime statistics ‘mislead’ public – so I figured that the Prime Minister’s speech would figure prominently in the BBC News when I got home.

I was wrong.

The front page of the BBC News website, when I checked it, led with – 25,000 job cuts in local authorities – (although this has since slipped down the list, at the time of writing & been replaced by the story regarding Lord Ashcroft’s “non-dom” tax status). The Prime Minister’s speech is not mentioned, and even on searching shows up only as a local piece in the Berkshire section of the website.

Obviously it’s been deemed less newsworthy than these job losses – so I had a look at it …BBC News – Council cuts threaten 25,000 jobs, BBC survey suggests

Well  – let’s see – what’s it all about ? A response to a new Government announcement ? an election pledge perhaps ?

No – it’s a survey carried out by … Oh yes, the BBC !

A survey of local authorities in England. All of them presumably. Well no actually – just 93 of them.

That’s not to say that a sample can’t be representative of a larger group – of course it can.

The sample that this report’s based on though is just a sub-set of the total sample for the survey – just 49 of them who “think that they’ll need to make cuts over the next three to five years”. (Which let’s be honest, sounds like the answer to a bit of a leading question)

Notice that it’s not based on any word from the Government – or even the opposition – but just based on whether they “expect” to make the cuts.

Based on the answers to this question they’ve decided that up to 25,000 jobs could be lost.

Of course if the sample is a representative one then it could be much greater. In fact as far as I can work out, the sample represents 49 of the 354 local authorities in England – or 13.8% – which would represent around 180,000 job losses.

The sample isn’t representative though – it’s chosen only from the authorities that said they would be likely to make cuts – and who answered the survey. So it’s not at all easy – or wise – to extrapolate from this figure.

Bear in mind also that none of the authorities can possibly predict with any accuracy, how the economy will perform in the next few years – so all of this is guesswork. Bear in mind also that the spending round for next year is not indicating these kind of cuts thus far – my own school benefiting from a likely increase of around 2.3% for the budget from April – which is tight – but it’s not a cut.

All of which leads me to believe that this isn’t really news. But the BBC think it is.

I thought that the Gordon Brown speech – and the connections with the misleading figures quoted by the Tories, and commented on by the BBC and the UK Statistics Authority – was news. But the BBC thinks it isn’t.

I just wonder why ?

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March 1, 2010 - Posted by | news, politics | , , , , ,

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