REPORT: BBC’s use of statistics not perfect

Immersed in numbers by Chris Khamken, licence CC BY-NC 2.0

The British Broadcasting Corporation offers many examples of good use of statistics, but there is still room for improvement, an independent review has found. The study was ordered by the BBC Trust, and it comprises of three separate parts: a review by an expert panel, a content analysis by Cardiff University researchers, and an audience research by the Oxygen Brand Consulting company.

One of the main conclusions of the review is the need for more consistency: not all BBC news pieces abide by same standards. Issues pertain, among others, to contextualisation of statistical information. According to the report the use of numbers sometimes makes it “difficult for audiences to understand whether they are really big or small, worrying or not.”

The report also points out the need for more critical assessment of statistics used by interviewees. BBC journalists should be better equipped to analyse statistics by themselves and call out misleading interpretations, it is suggested.

Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, “[a]ccurate numbers and information were expected from the BBC and were felt to be delivered”, the audience study found. Especially appreciated was the delivery of BBC’s Radio 1 News.

The report is available in full on the BBC website.

Picture: Immersed in numbers by Chris Khamken, licence CC BY-NC 2.0.

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