How biased? Very.
The recently concluded Punggol East by-election held on Jan. 26 was a godsend not just to the Workers’ Party.
Semi-professional media watchers, who are very free, have used this rare opportunity to conduct the following exercise: Check how skewed the mainstream media coverage was, as it is not everyday you have a by-election essentially focussed on one SMC with two candidates from heavyweight parties.
This makes life easy for those carrying out a postmortem.
So, please take a look at the following scanned newspaper reports from The Straits Times. It is seven days’ worth of coverage, taken from Jan. 19 to 25 — that one week leading up to polling day on Jan. 26.
On closer inspection, what emerges are some interesting and consistent patterns as to how the PAP was favoured over the WP.
Basically, both sets of candidates were systematically given different treatment in the mainstream media.
But the question is: Were you even aware of the following nifty little tricks the mainstream press uses to skew your perception?
PAP got more positive coverage
What we are about to do is quite simple: Since a picture paints a thousand words, then why not let’s just compare pictures?
Take a look at all the photos below that were published in that week’s worth of ST coverage, which are now cropped out to be compared side by side.
On the left, is the PAP. On the right, is the WP.
You will notice, in terms of quantity, they are about the same.
But — and here’s the big “but” — PAP’s Koh Poh Koon appeared in 11 photos, while WP’s Lee Li Lian appeared in only 8 of them.
No big deal, you say?
Well, if you were to look at WP’s set of photos alone, you can be forgiven for thinking that it might have been Low Thia Khiang who was running for Punggol East SMC instead.
Basically, WP’s Lee Li Lian’s clout is diluted in print. The same cannot be said for PAP’s Koh Poh Koon. ST clearly made Koh Poh Koon the subject of almost every photo.
Because if you look at PAP’s set of photos, you would have zero doubt who the candidate was.
Ok, let’s go beyond the superficial.
For the more hawk-eyed and learned, this is where things start to get more interesting.
You will notice that PAP and their candidate are more likely to be featured on the left-hand side of any image, while WP and their candidate are more likely to be relegated to be on the right-hand side.
Why is appearing on the left better? That’s because people read from left to right. Anything on the left, comes first.
Here, let me help you see things clearer:
Look at the last two pictures: Even when the picture of PM Lee is on the right, in the picture he is still on the left. And check out Lee Li Lian’s position in the last picture. Although the picture is published on the left of the paper, Lee Li Lian is still standing on the far right. She is not even the subject of the photo.
Channel 5 most biased
Still not convinced? Is it all a fluke?
Ok fine. Let me give you one last piece of incontrovertible proof that the mainstream media is biased.
On the 27 Jan. Channel 5 news report, one day after the results of the by-election were out, this was how they presented the candidates, their winning/ losing margin and who actually got elected to be Punggol East MP.
I’m sorry, but even though I might have been sitting to one side of the TV, I really don’t think this discrepancy in the size of the candidates’ faces is due to parallax error.
Why the hell is the guy who lost the by-election getting a much bigger surface area for his face to be on TV?!