On May 11, I announced a new study of political and economic bias in the major papers of Canada — the Globe & Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and Vancouver Sun. Today I am presenting the first update on results. This provides an important perspective on which perspectives are given the most access to the least neutral section of the newspaper: its opinion page. The Media Bias Page can be found on the top bar of this website.
Some trends are holding more or less solid. For instance, conservative parties are getting more op-ed space than the Liberals and the NDP combined, and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is getting about half the opinion space that the Liberals are. More significantly, the data clearly show that business voices — think tanks, trade associations, lobbyists, and corporate executives — predominate. This isn’t just about progressive voices being squeezed out — although that’s certainly true. The media really isn’t hearing from social conservatives, either. This is interesting because
it suggests something about what the media usually means by its often-repeated phrase “governing from the centre.” I have often suggested that governing from the centre is meaningless because politics is not a ruler; there is no “centre” as such. It is clear that what “centre” means in this case is “what’s good for business,” with both social conservatives and progressives relegated to their respective marginal positions. It’s true that social conservatives appear to outnumber progressives in the statistics here. However, Gwyn Morgan alone accounts for the Globe & Mail statistics. He shows up as a social conservative because of his directorship at the Manning Centre, but he’s not really a social conservative; he’s a natural gas baron.
Now, the entire data set is skewed by the National Post, which is essentially farming its editorial pages out to the anti-public sector Fraser Institute, the climate change denial front group Energy Probe, and Conservative commentators like Keith Beardsley. The Post alone published half of Conservative columns, and about two-thirds of the pro-business think tank columns. The Post has not published a single column this month from a progressive non-journalist.
The Globe & Mail clearly leaned Conservative, too, under the influence of contributors like Gwyn Morgan, Tom Flanagan, and Preston Manning. It, too, published not a single op-ed piece from a contributor with progressive connections, compared to a (much smaller) slew of pieces from various business representatives. It did stoop to publishing one op-ed by a former Layton aide, Jamey Heath, just after the election. It hasn’t let the new orange order back in since.
One of the more surprising developments, though, is to see that the Toronto Star‘s leftward deviation is far less significant than the Post‘s business bias. As expected, they published more than half the Liberal columns this month, and half of the NDP pieces. But even in the Star, 6 pieces went to business executives compared to just 1 piece by a trade unionist, and free market think tanks edged out progressive think tanks, 3 articles to 2.
Now, as someone who hates polling, obviously I have equally strong reservations about conducting political debate as though we were counting goals at a sports match. However, if this trend holds true over the coming weeks, then I think I have conclusively established two things: (a) major newspapers as a whole give more space to business groups than any other groups, including progressives and social conservatives; and (b) this is even true of the Toronto Star, supposedly the most leftist of the big papers.
Globe & Mail
|Other conservative parties||3||0||1||1||0||0||1|
|Trade Associations and Lobbyists||13||1||1||3||1||2||5|
|Executives and Directors||21||2||2||4||0||6||7|
|Free Market Think Tanks||37||5||0||25||1||3||3|
|Social Conservative Think Tanks||9||3||0||2||3||1||0|
|Progressive Think Tanks and Networks||5||0||0||0||2||2||1|