Media Monitoring Unit

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Julian Lewis set up a political consultancy with Leigh and Tony Kerpel, a former assistant to Edward Heath, now a political adviser to the Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Baker. The consultancy was called Policy Research Associates, and one of its projects was called the Media Monitoring Unit. With immense labour, in November 1986, a colleague of Lewis's, Simon Clark, working in a flat in Holland Park Avenue, published his first Media Monitoring Report.
It consisted of four sections. The first was an "assessment" of 11 current affairs programme series, including the BBC's "Panorama", Granada's "World in Action", Thames's "TV Eye", Channel 4's "Diverse Reports" and "A Week in Politics". Each programme was given one of six classifications, such as "programmes which promote left-wing targets", and so on. It then proceeded to tot up the proportion of programmes in each category, and tabulated the results.
Thus, in the Media Monitoring Unit's opinion, for example, 24.3 percent of "Panorama's" output was found to exhibit "left-wing bias", as against 8.1 percent found to show "right-wing bias", with 51.4 percent "balanced". "Panorama" thus fared better at the Unit's hands than BBC2's "Open Space", said to be 59.3 percent "biased to the Left" and only 3.7 percent "balanced", with no programmes biased to the Right at all; or "World in Action", where again no trace of right-wing bias could be detected. Alas, however, if "non-political" programmes were excluded (an interesting concept, in the context of such a highly political, not to say ideological sifting), the media monitors found 94.1 percent of "Panorama's" output biased to the Left.[1]
The Media Monitoring Unit was conceived and created last year by a small group of self-described Right-of-centre political activists. The driving force is Julian Lewis, 35, former Conservative parliamentary candidate for Swansea West, who holds a doctorate in strategic studies from Oxford.
He runs a political pressure group called Policy Research Associates which pops up now and again in debates on such matters as council corruption, trade union law and CND. Lord Chalfont is a patron as is Norris McWhirter, who founded the Freedom Association, and Edward Leigh, MP (Con., Gainsborough and Horncastle).
The increasing activity of the PRA and the decision to form the monitoring unit is indicative of a more aggressive approach in Right-of-centre circles to getting across its message.
Lewis says there has been growing concern that, whereas newspaper subscribers can choose their reading, the TV-viewing millions are limited to only four stations and two controlling bodies whose adequacy is questioned.
To get the unit off the ground he approached Sir Peter Tennant, 75, a senior City businessman and adviser to the CBI. Tennant in turn drew together a nucleus of sympathisers, mostly from the City, who put up the £25,000-or-so to hire a director, buy a video recorder and publish the report.[2]



  1. 'THE BBC AND THE POLITICIANS' [EXTRACT] by Godfrey Hodgson, Observer – 13 December 1987
  2. 'PEDIGREE OF A TV WATCHDOG' Daily Telegraph – 20 November 1986, TV has again been accused of political bias by a monitoring group. But how impartial are the monitors? Maurice Weaver reports