Thursday, January 03, 2019

The BBC's Alarmist Migrant Map

The BBC has today come under fire for misrepresenting the scale of the number of migrants who have recently attempted to enter the UK. In 2018 539 migrants were discovered trying to enter the UK on small boats. The number of migrants attempting to enter the UK in this manner has risen over the last few months.

The BBC has attempted to visualize the recent rise in the number of migrants discovered trying to enter the UK using an animated interactive map. The BBC's Where Migrants Have Been Discovered by Authorities map animates through the time period from November 1st to Jan 3rd, showing the day and the locations where migrants have been found trying to enter the UK.

The map uses scaled markers to represent the number of migrants discovered at each location. It is these scaled markers where the BBC has run into trouble. To aid legibility the BBC has provided a handy key to this scale:

Can you see the problem with this scale? Jo Wood has. On Twitter she pointed out that on this scale "the '80 or more' circle is over 130 times the area of the 'fewer than 5' circle". Jo has even helped the BBC out by providing a proportional scale.

The issue of immigration is hugely contentious in a Britain preoccupied by Brexit. The BBC's map only serves to hugely exaggerate the problem of migrants trying to enter the UK on small vessels. I would like to think that this misrepresentation of the problem is an unintentional error by the BBC's cartographers. But then I would also like to think that the BBC would take a little more care over its graphics.

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