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1. In the mass media (more particularly the broadcast media, and especially in public service broadcasting), an ideal of impartiality, fairness, and representativeness reflected in editorial and journalistic policies such as: covering a broad spectrum of subjects; offering a wide range of different (and often opposing) views on controversial subjects; avoiding bias by giving equal weight to conflicting viewpoints and being fair to all sides. Even-handedness includes offering a ‘right of reply’. The ‘avoidance of imbalance’ applies to the content of individual programmes, to the overall coverage of a topic, to individual journalists and presenters (who should never take sides), and to programming in general (see balanced programming). In news journalism, balance is closely aligned with a goal of objectivity. Where different viewpoints are fairly easily identifiable (as with different political parties) balance may be sought through an equal (or at least equitable) allocation of airtime (or column inches) to each of the parties. However, only rarely can arguments be fairly represented as having ‘two sides’ with tidily opposing points of view, and opinions can seldom be reduced to a single ‘spectrum’. See also political bias.

2. In aesthetic contexts, a subjective dimension of composition referring to a sense of equilibrium in the relative ‘weights’ of its elements. A work could be judged ‘one-sided’ if the main areas of interest were on one side only. See also hemispheric lateralization; reading direction.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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