Jul 152011

In a classic example of a deceptive news story, the BBC announced today in their TV news bulletin that 8 European banks failed the stress test – meaning they might not survive a financial crisis.

But later listening to Euronews (and in fact in the online article by the BBC), I hear a slightly different slant to the story – 8 our of 90 banks tested failed. Or 9%. Or to put it another way, 91% of European banks passed the stress test.

Merely announcing that 8 failed the test does not give an indication of the scale of the problem – was it 8 out of 8 ? 8 out of 80 ? Or 8 out of 800? Given the current climate in the wake of the recent banking crisis it is not unreasonable to assume that 8 failing the test is a much more serious problem than it really is.

Is it so much to ask that the media actually spend some time thinking about statistics and giving a proper slant to the news they announce ? Saying 9% failed the test is just as quick as saying 8 banks failed, and gives us more information, and the objection that some people may not understand percentages is pretty bogus – those who do not understand them are unlikely to be bothered by the “8 banks failed test” statement anyway.

A case of over simplification leading to unintended (or was it intentional?) deception.

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