A report has found that the BBC has under-represented anti-EU views
In-depth analysis of broadcasting output since 1999 based on monitoring by the watchdog News-Watch found Euro-sceptic voices were “marginalised” by the corporation.
And the alleged bias has continued following the national referendum vote to quit the EU in 2016, the report said.
“The clear preference of a large section of the population for withdrawal, and the reasons for so many people taking this stance, have been continually under-represented in the news coverage of the BBC,” the report said.
The findings were set out in “Brussels Broadcasting Corporation?” published by the think tank Civitas.
A shocking indictment of the BBC’s failure to achieve impartiality
Since the European Parliament elections in 1999, News-watch has compiled 38 mainly half-yearly reports, based on 8,000 programme transcripts covering almost 300 hundred hours of EU content.
Analysis of the News-Watch research for the Civitas report found that out of 4,275 guests talking about the EU on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme between 2005 and 2015, only 132, equivalent to 3.2%, were supporters of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
In 274 hours of monitored BBC EU coverage between 2002 and 2017, only 14 speakers were left-wing advocates.
Their contribution accounted for just 12 minutes of total broadcasting output, the report said.
Kenneth Clarke was a BBC regular
Yet during the same period, the two ardently Europhile Tories Kenneth Clarke and Lord Heseltine made 28 appearances between them.
The report also found “a determined reluctance” to address the questions of whether Britain should quit the EU.
Between 2005 and 2011, only 20 questions about leaving the EU were posed in 1,073 surveyed editions of Today.
The News-Watch researchers calculated that there was an average of one question for every 153 programme hours.
The report said the alleged bias continued after the vote for Brexit.
A month of the Today Programme in October and November 2017 carried 97 interviews on EU topics, but only nine were with long-term supporters of Brexit.
The BBC has denied the claims
David Keighley and Andrew Jubb, the authors of the report, said: “When opinion in favour of leaving the EU has featured, the editorial approach has – at the expense of exploring withdrawal itself – tended heavily towards discrediting and denigrating opposition to the EU as xenophobic, and to cast those who supported it as incompetent and venal.
“The overview provided here is a shocking indictment of the BBC’s failure to achieve impartiality, and in particular to incorporate the views of those who desired to leave the EU into its news output. Despite frequent requests to the Chairman and Director General of the BBC from a cross-party group of MPs concerned about BBC bias, the Corporation has been unable to provide a single programme that has examined the opportunities of Brexit. And we cannot find one either.
“The corporation is impervious to all complaints in this domain. It may well be that in the face of this lofty intransigence, something more radical – such as a Judicial Review of the complaints process – might be the only way forward.”
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Responding to the report, a BBC spokesman said: “There have been a number of flawed ‘analyses’ trying to depict the BBC as favouring one side or other.
“The reality is we’re no longer covering the binary choice of a referendum held 18 months ago, we’re covering the process towards Brexit in a responsible and impartial way independent of political pressure.
“The job of impartial journalism is to scrutinise the issues and interrogate the relevant voices, not advocate for a position.
“It’s precisely for this reason that the public trusts the BBC.”