The need for transparency on our screens


littlewoodA few weeks ago David Goodhart appeared on the BBC Sunday Morning programme ‘The Big Questions’. David is Head of Demography, Immigration, and Integration for a think tank called Policy Exchange. Ten days later Warwick Lightfoot, Policy Exchange’s Director of Research, and Head of Economic and Social Policy appeared on the BBC news. Back in November the BBC published an item on their website about apprenticeships based on two bits of research. One from Policy Exchange and the other from another think tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research. Broadcasters regularly turn to such bodies for news items and the think tanks constantly send out press releases with their latest ideas and views. It is easy to assume that because these organisations are regularly featured on our screens that their views can be relied upon. Another think tank that is a regular contributor to the BBC panel shows such as Question Time is the Institute of Economic Affairs. On one occasions I raised some concerns on twitter with their Director Mark Littlewood who responded “oh God. Another smug, whiney, ill informed, statist, “know it all”, pompous, up themselves, utterly pathetic, left wing lunatic. Spare me.” and then he blocked me from following him. The fact is that there are numerous think tanks, some of which are small and rarely get any attention from the media. Of those that do get plenty of our airtime handed to them by broadcasters such as the BBC, some are a great deal more open about who funds them than others. A few weeks ago a the Tax Justice Network published a league table of 27 of the most well known think tanks and how transparent they are about the sources of their funds. The IPPR is judged to be broadly transparent but both Police Exchange and IEA are in the Highly Opaque category. Perhaps it is time that our public broadcasters either limit their focus to think tanks that are open about who funds them, or at least puts a warning on the screen every time people like Mark Littlewood and David Goodhart are invited to appear on our screens as if they are experts without any vested interest. They may of course have no vested interest, but because they refuse to reveal who funds their work, we simply don’t know. What we can be certain of, is that because the are on the TV or radio speaking on behalf of a think tank, that they are people who are being paid to promote the views of a body that may have some deeply hidden agendas.

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About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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