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Like its close relations, impartiality and fairness, the notion of balance lies at the heart of British broadcasting. Newspapers are not bound in the same way, although they would certainly claim to take a balanced approach to reporting. References to ‘unbalanced reporting’ underpin many complaints to broadcasters. But while the emphasis these days has shifted to ‘due impartiality’ in all Ofcom radio and television news codes of practice and the BBCProducers' Guidelines, balance seems to serve a purpose in defining impartiality itself.

The narrowest interpretation is that balance simply means saying ‘on the one hand x and the other hand y’, an even-handedness of approach. There is also the ‘stop-watch’ definition (Wilson, 1996; Harcup, 2004) which means 30 seconds for one view, 30 seconds for ...

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