POLL TRUTH: When is a mistakenly cut video not mistakenly cut?


When is a mistakenly cut video not a mistakenly edited video? That was the question posed by the BBC.

With the General Election of 2019 days old the Conservative party tweeted a video of an ITV interview with Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer.

On the BBC Radio 4 6 O’Clock News bulletin, Amol Rajan reported that Starmer in the edited clip appeared to hesitate with the words ‘Labour has no plan for Brexit’ added to the screen. In the original interview, he alleges, he didn’t.

When the difference was challenged on Twitter by a BBC reporter, Rajan, said the Conservative Party doubled down on the attacks.

The BBC Media editor in the bulletin added:

This is how modern media strategy works. First doctor a video. Then when you’re called out for it publish fresh attacks. What matters on social media is the noise you create, the cut through rather than accuracy.

Of course, that creates a problem for journalists. By highlighting fake news you draw fresh attention to a falsehood so ensuring that a falsehood is seen by countless more.

The Conservative Party may therefore have grounds for chalking up the doctored video as a win.

The video in numbers

The original clip was posted just before noon.

Fact checking website Full Fact challenged the video at 6.29pm – some six hours later.

By 8pm, on the day it was posted the video which hadn’t been deleted had been viewed more than 400,000 times.

You can listen to Rajan’s piece on the BBC Radio 4 Six O’Clock News here from 13’37”.

You can see the original tweet challenged by BBC’s Daniel Sandford here.

So what does this mean?

I don’t normally blog about political comms and do so here on professional lines as it touches upon comms ethics and tactics.

This story touches on academic research Stuart Bruce that shows when you rebut a falsehood people only remember the original falsehood.

It also poses a series of questions.

When the original online content contains a falsehood what then? 

When its based around video which is more trusted than plain text what then?

What come back is there?

The Advertising Standards Authority stopped regulating political ads in 1997. Twitter announced they would refuse to allow political ads. But this isn’t an ad.

We’re supposed to get more cynical at challenging things but most people simply aren’t going to track down the original interview and compare the clip against delivery.

So what then?

In 2019, the news cycle moves so fast that minutes count and as hours pass attention switches. The allegation of ‘fake news’ is left in the wake of the original.

It’s not for me to say if the approach breaches the CIPR Code of Conduct here.

Even it it was, what difference would it make?

Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr.





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