Monday, November 27, 2006


A couple of fellow bloggers -- Mr. Eugenides and Not Saussure -- were kind enough to think of me when they read a BBC profile of Polly Toynbee, which included this quote:

Her editor at the Indie was Andrew Marr, a firm Toynbee admirer.

"What makes her stand out as a journalist is not only her strong views," he says, "but also her ferocious appetite for research. In a media world in which too many media columnists simply voice their top-of-the-head opinions, Polly always arrives heavily armed with hard facts."

Regular readers of this blog know, of course, that Polly Toynbee is sloppy with facts, and that she often doesn't read the research she cites. Take, for example, the following "hard" fact.

During her appearance on Question Time last Thursday (video link available here at the time of writing), Polly Toynbee said:

He [Rupert Murdoch] owns over 40% of the readership of the press in this country. [The quote comes at about about 54m00s in the clip]

Now, The Economist puts the figure at 32% (source). The Audit Bureau of Circulations claims that The Times and Sun have a readership of 656,278 and 3,107,412 respectively, out of a total of 12, 159, 237 -- or 31%. For the Sundays, the relevant figures are 1,287,099, 3,445,459 and 13,081,023 respectively -- or 36%. [Note that the ABC website can provide the data, but there is no way to link directly to the results.]

So Murdoch "owns" 31% of daily readership and 36% of Sunday readership for national papers -- call it 32% as a weighted average. And note that these are overestimates; it excludes the hundreds of thousands of local paper readers.

Maybe by "hard" facts, Marr meant facts that are difficult to understand...

UPDATE: Please see here for a discussion of the 32% number -- I used circulation rather than readership here, which was wrong.  However, the actual figure is still below 42%.


Anonymous said...

That's circulation, not readership.

The Sun's readership is 7,806,000. The Times's is 1,781,000.

This gives Murdoch a 35% share of national weekday newspaper readership. It'll be higher on Sunday, but I can't be bothered to collate the data.

The first rule of pedantry is "always make damn sure you're not making a stupid mistake yourself".

(data from )

John B

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

John B --

Thank you for pointing out the error. I have posted about this here.

You will note that I do not claim to be perfect (see number 9...).