69% of panelists on Question Time and Any Questions in 2016 and 2017 were Remainers
The accusation by former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit came during question in the House of Lords ahead of a new damning report which shows that two thirds of guests on BBC Question Time and Any Questions over the last two years have been anti-Brexit.
The analysis by the Institute for Economic Affairs follows another report by the thinktank Civitas last week which revealed that between 2005 and 2015 only 132 of the 4,275 guests asked to speak on the Today programme about the EU supported Leaving.
Raising concerns about the whether the BBC is producing EU propaganda rather than balanced coverage, Ukip peer Lord Pearson urged ministers to intervene.
Lord Pearson noted: “The Brexit Secretary, Mr David Davis, recently said to me that his job in Brussels is made even more difficult because every time he makes a small advance there he is promptly undermined by the BBC.
Lord Tebbit (R) said the BBC has become a ‘supporter of a foreign organisation called the EU’
Quite frankly the BBC has become a supporter of a foreign organisation called the European Union
He pointed out that the BBC has been unable to identify to a cross party group of MPs a single programme it has produced since the referendum which has examined Brexit’s opportunities.
He added: “Is it acceptable that the BBC has not debated the ideas behind European integration and whether they are still valid today?”
Following him Lord Tebbit said: “Quite frankly the BBC has become a supporter of a foreign organisation called the European Union.
“Could he just quietly whisper in somebody’s ear ‘get your act in order’ because they owe a duty of due impartiality.”
Culture minister Lord Ashton said he agreed the BBC owes a duty of impartiality.
However, he added: “As a minister I do care that ministers do keep out of editorial decisions.
“I do think this question of impartiality is largely a matter of opinion.”
The IEA analysis showed that in 2016 and 2017 of the 281 panellists on Question Time and 297 on Radio 4’s Any Questions, 69 per cent were Remainers and 31 per cent backed Brexit.
Culture minister Lord Ashton said he agreed the BBC owes a duty of impartiality
There was the same split for 297 guests on BBC Any Questions on Radio 4.
After the Referendum when Government ministers supported Brexit after previously backing Remain the split was 60 per cent to 40 per cent still in favour of Remain
The report describes the bias as “substantial”.
Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Brexit is the defining political issue of our times.
BBC bosses said their broadcasts are not ‘single issue programmes’
“The number of questions about it selected for broadcast on both programmes bears testament to this, yet low priority is still being attached to balancing its panels on the topic.
“It seems uncontroversial that the best metric for balance should be how the public voted in 2016, and as such both Question Time and Any Questions are out of step with public opinion.
“A public broadcaster should not be displaying such systemic bias.”
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “Neither Question Time nor Any Questions are ‘single issue’ programmes and panellists are expected to address a range of subjects each week.
“Aside from politicians, the rest of the panels consist of political commentators, journalists, and other public figures who represent a range of viewpoints.
“The BBC is no longer reporting on the binary choice which faced the electorate in the referendum 18 months ago; Question Time and Any Questions – with due impartiality – are giving audiences the opportunity to hold to account politicians from government and opposition parties for the way they are carrying out Brexit.”
She added: “There have been a number of flawed ‘analyses’ trying to depict the BBC as favouring one side or other.
“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.”