Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Interruption Rate study request

I have just sent this email to a Professor of media and communications. Something I have been meaning to do for ages.


Dear Professor X

Allegations of bias in the BBC and broadcast media generally are common, and probably come pretty much equally from both sides of the left/right divide.

If the BBC is in fact biased, this is a matter of public interest, since the BBC charter requires its coverage to be balanced.

Therefore we need to identify a robust yet simple parameter of the performance of broadcasters.

I suggest that the concept of "Interruption Rate" (IR) foots this bill. It is quite simply the rate at which a broadcast interviewer interrupts his or her interviewee.  Interruptions may be graded along the lines of simply vocalisations and grunts, to truncation of sentences where the last couple of words of the interviewee's though are overridden, to full-on interruptions where the thought is cut across with a new or restated question. I carried out one such appraisal of Andrew Neil in 2015 http://greenerblog.blogspot.com/2015/01/sunday-politics-andrew-neil-natalie.html

The nul hypothesis here is that the IR for each broadcaster will be the same irrespective of the gender, colour, politics or other characteristics of the interviewee.

If there is a tendency for broadcasters to have significantly different IRs for different types of interviewee, this should be made public, so that at very least broadcasters could improve their balance.

Of course, it may be that this kind of studies have already been done, in which case I apologise for my ignorance, and would greatly appreciate a reference to a good review of the field.

If on the other hand, this work has not been done, I would appreciate your thoughts on the proposal, or if you are too busy at the moment, a pointer to someone who might be interested and have the time. Maybe a PhD who is looking for a research project.

Many thanks for your time, and for the excellent work you did on the newspaper articles published during xxx.

Yours sincerely

Richard Lawson

(MB, BS, MRCPsych)

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