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Is the Countryside Alliance ‘representative’ of rural Britain?

  • by J.W.

“Widening its appeal by wrapping the hunting debate up in broader countryside issues in an attempt to present it as an integral part of rural life.”


These news pages frequently feature the Countryside Alliance, for example:

Will meat-free save the planet? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Plus CA news is often reposted on social media, again for example:

Countryside Alliance – Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss outline their visions for rural Britain to Countryside Alliance members

Countryside Alliance – Tim Bonner: Should farmland be sacrificed for tree planting?

To what extent, however, is the Countryside Alliance ‘representative’ of rural Britain?

Our aim is to promote understanding and acceptance of the rural way of life and activities such as hunting and shooting in a managed landscape, and to protect them from bias, misinformation and over regulation.

Countryside Alliance – About the Countryside Alliance

It has commissioned a survey which has been very critical of the BBC’s coverage of rural affairs, as reported in today’s WMN:

Rural campaigners have called for the BBC to create “rural programming for the countryside, not just about the countryside”, after a recent survey found  94% of respondents rejected the claim that the broadcaster covers rural issues fairly and impartially.In a survey of 3,400 people – run by the Countryside Alliance – almost 77% of those taking part said that the licence fee was not value for money, while 68% felt that it should be scrapped altogether. Almost half of those who took part, who came from rural areas across the UK, were over the age of 65. The largest proportion – 80% –still largely watched the BBC on TV.

Western Morning News –

Countryside Alliance – New research shows 94% of respondents reject the claim that the BBC covers rural issues fairly

This has in turn allowed the ‘usual BBC bashers’ to indulge a little:

BBC’s The Archers not grounded in reality, say rural listeners |

Rural audiences slam BBC’s Countryfile, Chris Packham’s Springwatch and The Archers | Daily Mail Online

BBC backlash as fans slam Countryfile and Springwatch over lack of ‘representation’ | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV |

Countryfile does nevertheless make a point of asking difficult questions about rural issues, whether how to feed the nation or how farmers are committing suicide in higher numbers:

BBC One – Countryfile

And it is a very popular programme:

Herefordshire featured on popular BBC One TV show | Hereford Times

It is nevertheless looking into these latest allegations:

“Countryfile has to deal with some contentious issues that bring out differing views. This is the first of many programmes we’ll be looking at as part of our review process, but the kinds of issues Countryfile covers make it a good barometer for impartiality,” a BBC insider told The Telegraph.

BBC launches review into Countryfile after claims from viewers – Birmingham Live

But it sometimes reflects the views of the Countryside Alliance – much to the dismay of the press quoted above:

Countryfile blasted for ‘taking pro-hunting stance’ | Daily Mail Online

Countryfile viewers blast ‘sickening’ deer culling scenes and brand advice to gun down animals ‘total bulls***’ | The Sun

It mustn’t be forgotten, however, that the CA is a pro-hunting lobby group:

This paper investigates the ways in which the UK hunting lobby has historically sought to widen its appeal by wrapping the hunting debate up in broader countryside issues in an attempt to present it as an integral part of rural life. It is based upon a detailed analysis of the re-branding of the hunting lobby and the subsequent framing of the Countryside Alliance’s Liberty and Livelihood March in the British newspaper press in September 2002. This illustrates how the hunting lobby has fed upon and promoted the perception of a growing urban–rural divide in the UK. The analysis suggests that there is a long history of symbiotic relationships between campaigning organizations promoting a ‘countryside agenda’ and the politically partisan UK press. Gaining extensive newspaper access, however, does not guarantee that a protest group is successful in its aims. This case study suggests that it is important to consider the less visible processes of news production within their historical context, and in relation to the broader policy-making arena, to adequately assess whether there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between protest movements and the press in recent years.

Spinning the Rural Agenda: The Countryside Alliance, Fox Hunting and Social Policy | Request PDF

To finish, and for a little balance, here is a rather disrespectful profile of the organisation:

Shooting the Shit with the Countryside Alliance |

Not forgetting:

Meanwhile, the REAL rural issues, like housing, lack of transport infrastructure, employment opportunities etc, are conveniently ignored. Research shows that the rural population is as equally divided on the issue of hunting as the urban…

Urban Dictionary: “countryside alliance”

These news pages do, after all, try to cover most sides of the debate…