Instigator / Con

Resolved: Governments should impose a BBC-style impartiality requirement on all news platforms.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics

After 2 votes and with 2 points ahead, the winner is...

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Last updated date
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Three days
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One week
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Contender / Pro

This is for Tejretic's Restricted Topic Tournament. For more information, please go to the following link:

Con will waive the first round, Pro will waive their last. This allows for an equal number of rounds.

Round 1
Per the rules of the debate, I waive this round and await my opponent's constructive. Good luck! 

Purpose: Media is the means information is presented, engagement with media is foundational to how one views and engages with the world, thus it is imperative the media seek truth/understanding, giving views based on factual evidence and allowing different sides to present their case 
Precedence: “...the Fairness Doctrine was evolved to require that the broadcaster's coverage of important public issues must be adequate and must fairly reflect differing viewpoints” [1]
Proposition: “...We must challenge our own assumptions and experiences and also those which may be commonly held by parts of our audience” [2] This is what links the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine and the BBC’s impartiality policy: 

  • it reflects a broad range of individuals and views, including, where editorially appropriate, all main strands of argument
  • differing views are given due weight and treated fairly, including in terms of prominence, treatment and time of day
  • there is an appropriate timeframe for assessing that due impartiality has been achieved. Particular care is required approaching elections.” [3]
            ^The above is the antithesis to echo-chambers/fake news, giving consensus and dissenting opinions/claims while giving due weight to the consensus, governments should adopt this so its citizens know truth- the system we have leads to distrust/disbelief in what even is true, knowing what is true is foundational to the way we act/engage with the world, this begins with how ideas get presented to the population in media, I hope to show how the perception of truth is foundational to one's perception of the world and how they act/engage in the world

Round 2

Media’s primary contribution to democracy is education. By conveying information on matters of public importance, the democratic citizenry is enabled to make decisions for themselves and their country. However, this enabling effect can only manifest if the information provided by media companies communicates truth. Truth is, at least partly, subjective, moored in social identity, and told in narratives. The Marxist narrative is that capitalists exploit proletarians for surplus-value in the MCM’ circuit of exchange. The neoliberal narrative is that the free market should guide our actions both in the marketplace and outside of it, since capital accumulation increases the quality of life of everyone. Both narratives do damage to reality by omitting details, yet both are true within their own unique value systems.

So, what kind of “truth” should media convey? I argue that media should spread “truth” that enables constituents to vote in accordance with their best interest, whether that “best interest” be of society or themselves. To this end, I argue that the BBC neutrality principle that would be imposed upon US news organizations under the resolution would inhibit useful truths of being disseminated to the public.

Objectivity as Strategy

Journalists who employ objectivity under the new guidelines would need, not want, to employ discourses of objectivity to legitimate subjective news takes. Since news agencies (especially in the US) are often privately owned firms that derive most of their profits from readers (not advertisers) who want media stories that cater to their political predispositions, requiring that these news agencies abandon their partisan inclinations for “neutrality” will necessarily mean less profit (3). It is no coincidence that studies of news media exposure find that preestablished political identity plays a significant role in choosing between various media organizations (13 p.29 “Figure 1”, 14 p.378).

There is a catch, though. If media companies skirt these guidelines, they can comply with media regulations to appear objective while also catering to their hyper-partisan audience. When Fox News hosts barraged their audience with allegations that the 2022 election was rigged, allegations Fox News hosts knew were dubious, a common thread of discourse emerged among the prized stars of the Fox brand (2). Neil Cavuto, on air, cut away from a press briefing concerning voter fraud, telling his audience that he could not in “good countenance continue to show you this” (2). After the episode, a Fox News executive wrote to the network that Cavuto’s action constituted a “threat” to the Fox brand, presumably because it alienated people who believed that the election was “stolen” (2). In a similar vein, Tucker Carlson called for reporter Jacqui Heinrich to be fired after she contested the Trump administration’s allegations because such fact checking hurt the “company” and the “stock price,” though he also admitted that the version of events purported by the Trump administration was likely inaccurate, even calling Sidney Powell, the major Trumpian figure spreading the “stop the steal” news a liar (2). This “protect the bottom line” discourse portended great disaster, and disaster did strike. Donald Trump’s tweets, which expressed disappointment with Fox, spurred viewers to seek out other sources of conservative news. While Fox News’ ratings did not drop, Newsmax’s average viewership surpassed Fox, going from, on average, 65,000 viewers in October of 2020, to 437,000 on November 10, 2020 (4).
Fox News defended its duplicitous reporting with the language of “objectivity” and “neutrality.” Their brief argues that Fox “fairly covered both sides of the controversy” (5, p.21). It is debatable whether Fox’s defense would stand under the BBC guidelines. While the “due weight” requirements specifically lay out that fringe opinions need not receive as much weight as mainstream ones, is the stolen election narrative fringe (15 4.3.2)? Most Republicans surveyed in national polls don’t think Biden won the 2020 election legitimately (6). It could be argued that Fox did grant due weight to both sides even if it was made aware that their news coverage was false.

All these guidelines do is cast a sheen of objectivity on subjective news takes. This “sheen” is enforced by legal endorsement. All news agencies are forced to give “due weight” to opposing views under the BBC guidelines. At media’s disposal are plenty of tools to appear objective. They can, like Fox News, claim they are merely covering “both sides” of a controversy while uncritically airing conspiracy theories. They can be selective in what opposite views they air (1). They can even gather quotes to sneak in their subjective ideals into an objective report (1). By sticking to the letter of the law but not the spirit, news organizations produce a misleading version of events that caters to preconceived partisan inclinations. In adopting the appearance of truth, news media deceives their audience into believing that their reporting is more objective than it really is. The only news agencies that cannot adapt, those few radical periodicals that align with a non-mainstream ideology, will be affected. I explain why this is a problem below.

Neutrality as Upholding the Status Quo

News media plays a central role in contouring the public imagination. The opinions aired by major news corporations are introjected onto society. Herman and Chomsky, in their seminal book Manufacturing Consent, created the propaganda model to explain how media filters through “raw news” to produce a finished product that is salutary for ruling interests. The model identifies 5 “filters” that fix the “premises of discourse and interpretation” while also governing what counts as “newsworthy” (7 pp.61-62). One of these “filters” is the predominance of “official” sources that pervade news media. Due to the immense cost of seeking out less official (and thus, less credible in the eyes of news editors) sources of news, and the ease with which one can find newsworthy content from official sources, news agencies routinely seek out few, powerful sources for their articles (7, p.78). This perspective is shared by political scientist W. Lance Bennett, who coined the term “Index Theory” to describe how news media “indexes” a range of views from political and economic elites while ignoring other voices. Bennett’s study of the range of opinions expressed in the New York Times during the Iran-Contra Scandal concluded that over 80% of reported opinions came from governmental institutions (8. p.117).

BBC reporting also reflects the prevailing opinions of dominant political institutions. In 2007, a review of BBC news media found that the predominant mode of coverage adhered to a “seesaw” model, where coverage tottered between parties (9, “Theorising Impartiality and Bias”). However, even after the BBC incorporated the recommendations of the 2007 review to seek out non-elite sources, BBC still did an awful job of citing non-elite viewpoints. Between 2007 and 2012, sourcing of “political” sources (i.e., spokespersons and politicians) grew by roughly 5%, while sourcing of members of the public fell by 3% (9, “Findings, Table 3”).

If the news is merely an extension of elite discourse, then elites control the constellation of “acceptable” opinions within society. News media affect peoples’ sentiment toward other countries, how people vote in partisan races, and people’s overall political ideology (10, 12). The media is not just a reflection of public opinion; it creates public opinion.

When mass media introjects elite discourse into society, the public is then unable to distinguish between their own opinions and those superimposed upon them. The role of news in “educating” the public is short-circuited. The public is not “learning” to become good citizens who vote in accordance with their interest, they vote in accordance with opinions that are foisted upon them by the same institutions that are meant to educate them. Pro closes off the safety valve when they eliminate radical publications. These publications do challenge mainstream discourse, though in a necessarily biased manner that represent the minority of radicals who read the paper. The “undue weight” declares that this type of reporting gives too much credence to minority opinions, and thus, these papers would have to stop circulating. This is not compensated for by mainstream newspapers increasing the “breadth of opinion” represented in their reporting, since radical opinions are filtered out, and only the elite institutions remain. It is not simply, then, that radical publications die out; it is the case that any discourse that challenges elite institutions will not be published.

Radical publications may not have a huge readership, but it does provide actionable truths, those that can and should affect voting, that the mainstream news does not cover. Hence, it is imperative that radical, non-conforming opinion be preserved to supplement those espoused by the mainstream media.


Pro’s advocacy would only homogenize the news. On one hand, mainstream media will continue their partisan slant to generate profit, though now with the plausible deniability of “objectivity” as defined under BBC guidelines, and radical opinion will be marginalized. All forms of truth anathema to ruling interests will vanish, and the only opposition tolerated will come from within socially circumscribed bounds (those elaborated by the news media). What kind of democracy flourishes under these conditions? One where truth is only permitted if ruling authorities authorize it. If “truth” is the value by which this debate must be judged, a Con vote is called for.

Sources in comments
If the news is merely an extension of elite discourse, then elites control the constellation of “acceptable” opinions within society. News media affect peoples’ sentiment toward other countries, how people vote in partisan races, and people’s overall political ideology (10, 12). The media is not just a reflection of public opinion; it creates public opinion.

When mass media introjects elite discourse into society, the public is then unable to distinguish between their own opinions and those superimposed upon them.  
  Society is introjected by elite discourse now, you cite the belief of the 2022 election being stolen, the main proponents of this conspiracy theory include Fox News, the then President Trump, and Senator Cruz. The media presently is mainly owned by 6 mega corporations who have an inherent interest to polarize society, dividing the masses against each other as the elite sit back and collect profits in outrage culture, the profit motive reigns as the people disagree what is even true, the profit motive prevails a divided society and the news media advances the corporate interest of its owners by shaping public opinion into policy that aligns with their interests

"U.S. citizens were divided in their perceptions of governmental and scientific information and actions provided inresponse to COVID-19 (Hart et al., 2020). Recent researchhas shown reactions to the pandemic correlated with politicalideology (Imhoff & Lamberty, 2020). Democrats, the moreliberal political party in the U.S., had much greater confidence that scientists would act in the best interest of the public; while Republicans’, the more conservative politicalparty, confidence remained flat (Funk et al., 2020). Partisanopinions paralleled behavioral differences: Republicans participated in social distancing practices less than Democrats(Allcott et al., 2020; Goldstein & Wiedemann, 2021; KushnerGadarian et al., 2020; Painter & Qiu, 2021). For example,due to the politicization of mask-wearing to prevent thespread of droplets (Thacker, 2020), the acceptability of and adherence to mask-wearing varied among the U.S. population, despite evidence that masks reduced the transmission ofCOVID-19 (Malecki et al., 2021)."

This disagreement in truth means impartiality and due weight is needed so society has a basic conception of truth 

Round 3
Thanks Pro!

Pro argues that the BBC guidelines (actually, Ofcam imposes them on all news organizations in the UK if I’m not mistaken) will coerce other news organizations to reflect “the truth.” Pro and I both agree that the news media plays a significant role in distributing “truth” to viewers, and that truth is meant to provide actionable information that can affect behavior. Here’s where I diverge:

Echo Chambers

First, American news companies cater to a partisan audience. It is not just that 6 major corporations want the people to be divided. The public prefers partisan news. A study from UC Santa Barbara from 2016 found that news readers prefer reading “attitude-consistent” (partisan) information (1, pp. 683-684). Fox News played up the theory that Biden stole the election despite the overwhelming evidence that Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and others were lying. When a few reporters strayed from the company narrative, pundits at Fox wanted them fired or “reigned in” so that their bottom line was not affected by dissatisfied consumers switching the channel to more partisan, fringe news organizations. The profit motive is not affected by the resolution. Media companies will still impute a “spin” on news articles while also complying with new regulations. Here, I think Pro misses the main point of my first contention. It was not simply that Fox lied. Fox defended their lies by claiming that both sides of the 2020 election “debate” were covered. “Due weight” regulations indicate that minority opinions may not be given as much coverage as majority opinions, but facticity does not enter into “due weight” considerations. Fox can still uncritically air the opinions of legislators, judges, and other official voices that conform to their audience’s expectation if a token opposing voice is also aired. With Fox, CNN, and other news agencies being able to curate their content to fit audience expectations, there is no less an echo chamber in Pro’s world. Far from just being insolvent, Pro would cast a sheen of legitimacy over biased news content. If Pro is worried about the public not knowing truth from fiction (as they articulate in their 1AC), imagine what would happen if the public were fully convinced that the regulations “solved” the bias problem. They would trust the news even if it propagated similarly biased content.

Fox, of course, is only one example. Yet, this practice of claiming “objectivity” as a strategy to dodge accountability is well-known. Dr. Gaye Tuchman, in her seminal 1972 paper “Objectivity as Strategic Ritual,” documented how reporters use selective quotations, ordered the information presented in articles, and perform other ritualistic practices to prevent libel suites (2). News agencies have decades of experience in appearing objective, and now that most profits derive from viewership and subscriptions, there is more incentive than ever to abide by the letter, but not the spirit of the law (3).


This point doesn’t get addressed, so extend it across the debate. News agencies “index” a range of opinions from “official” sources. Even the BBC does this. In fact, the BBC (whose guidelines Pro pull’s from) adheres to a “seesaw” model that covers major parties’ opinions, but not the public at large (4). Elite institutions being the only voiced opinion has broader implications than simply a non-representative media environment. Elites a) are inoculated from accountability (since critical news is not covered) and b) introject their opinions onto society, constraining discourse, constricting the public imagination, and creating a homology between elite consensus/dissensus and ordinary-citizen consensus/dissensus. Pro seems to agree here. In their rebuttal, Pro mentions that the Covid-19 crisis reflected the opinions of former president Trump, Senator Cruz, and other “official” voices. Hence, blue voters believed in masking, and red voters didn’t. A news organization that “indexes” the opinions of the major parties would cover both sides “impartially” without editorializing that one side had much more empirical weight than the other. Ergo, Pro’s new regulations wouldn’t fix the problem he posits.

Any news coverage that critically lambasts one side would be scrutinized under the regulations Pro would impose. Critical journalism, with its already small readership, would be squelched alongside non-mainstream opinion. Media agencies in Pro’s world would index more broadly across governmental institutions, but they would not touch the less “established” voices in society. Radical opinion is filtered completely, preventing any truths from surfacing that do not uphold the status quo.

In some cases, a journalistic slant can be more educational than a mere recitation of mainstream opinion, and mainstream-opinion recitation may even misinform.
For example, a BBC article that takes for granted that debt is bad, that government business can be equated to household business, and that employs evocative metaphors to “simplify” complex economic news sets the parameters for discourse in a slanted manner even if both major parties are represented. Funnily enough, this did happen, and it certainly impacted what information was received by the viewing public and, likely, how they voted too (5). This economic logic reflects the consensus of the parties. It is not an established fact. It is contestable. Yet, it was not treated as such. On the other hand, allowing radical publication and opinions to be voiced can challenge these predispositions. “Challenging” does not necessarily render these establishment opinions obsolete. We may challenge a dogma and still accept it afterwards. But, if we never step outside of official discourse, we have no way to verify if it is correct or beneficial. Further, we know that to some people, socialism, anarchism, etc. are valuable truths that influence political action, that inform voters on what’s at stake politically and what kind of political future they can hope for. Jacobin, WSWS, and other news agencies educate through the medium of critical journalism and, crucially, provides actionable information that could change how someone votes. The quality of media’s education would diminish if critical viewpoints were not broadcast.


Pro hasn’t really touched my arguments, and their case amounts to a desire for a broader array of voices in news and fewer echo chambers. In Pro’s world, there might be a wider array of governmental institutions represented, but all news that is critical of the status quo will be squelched despite also providing “truth” that the mainstream media doesn’t acknowledge. Bias will flourish under the guidelines in a legitimated, insidious form as “objectivity” is coopted as a form of strategy. Having not shot down these points, I feel confident that a Con ballot is called for.


(I didn't know the time would go this fast, failing to pay attention is on me)

Round 4
Extend arguments for now. Pro, if you want a repeat of this debate sometime in the future when you have more free time, let me know. I get that real life stuff gets in the way, so no judgment here.