Fairness in February – Methodology

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    Appendix 1: Methods:

    A content analysis of the relative presence of types of political message contained within broadcasts in the first year of the
    Scottish Independence Referendum campaigns applied the following coding categories which emerged from pilot coding exercises:

    About/Descriptive

    Statements about independence which could not be otherwise coded as pro- or anti-

    Pro-independence
    Statements which could clearly be associated with the pro-independence or Yes position

    Anti-independence
    Statements which could clearly be associated with the anti-independence or No position

    Pro-Ind/Sci/Acad Evidence
    Statements which made use of academic, scientific or ‘independent’ evidence to support the pro-independence or Yes campaign

    Anti-Ind/Sci/Acad Evidence
    Statements which made use of academic, scientific or ‘independent’ evidence to support the anti-independence or No campaign

    Anti-Pro Order
    An opening sequence of statements in which an anti-independence or No statement preceded a pro-independence or Yes response

    Pro-Anti Order
    An opening sequence of statements in which a pro-independence or Yes statement preceded an anti-independence or No response

    Personalisation of ideas as AS’s wishes
    Labelling pro-independence statements as representing the wishes or desires of Alex Salmond rather than as those of the ‘Scottish Government’ or the ‘SNP’ or the ‘Yes campaign’ or any other collective

    Personalisation of ideas as BT individuals’ wishes
    Labelling anti-independence statements as representing the wishes or desires of Johann Lamont or Alistair Darling or any other individual rather than as those of the ‘British Government’ or ‘critics’ or the No campaign or any other collective

    Abusive of Pro
    Broadcasting the use of insulting language aimed at pro-independence campaigners

    Abusive of Anti
    Broadcasting the use of insulting language aimed at anti-independence campaigners

    Economic evidence
    Presenting evidence relating to the economic consequences (trade, taxes, cost of living, employment) of independence for either side

    Social evidence
    Presenting evidence relating to the social consequences ( health, education, welfare, arts) of independence for either side

    Political Evidence
    Presenting evidence relating to the political consequences ( NATO, EU, defence, constitution) of independence for either side

    Finishing with Pro evidence unchallenged
    Finishing a broadcast item with a clearly pro-independence or Yes piece of evidence left unchallenged

    Finishing with Anti evidence unchallenged
    Finishing a broadcast item with a clearly anti-independence or No piece of evidence left unchallenged

    The term ‘statement’ referring to the unit of measurement in this research means a sentence or cluster of sentences from one source demarcated by clear space between it and a prior sentence/cluster from a different source and by a clear space between it and a subsequent sentence/cluster.

    No attempt was made in this approach to discriminate between statements of different word lengths or between one and two or more sentence clusters. The nature of these broadcasts was such that statements were rarely more than one sentence in length with the presenter, interviewer and multiple political figures generally constrained to enable inclusion of all parties.

    The coding which led to the evidence of bias emerged from a grounded theory/phenomenological approach which allows the data to speak.

    The final coding is the product of two phases, through all the data, of coding by the lead researcher and subsequent moderation by three others (recently retired staff and PhD students).

    The first phase resulted in evidence of bias more damaging to the BBC and STV.
     
    In the second phase, the lead researcher allocated statements with more subtle or nuanced undermining of the Yes campaign to the general or descriptive category. Coding of human language cannot be utterly objective but the team has done more than most in an effort to be as objective as can be.