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Sunday, 19 July 2020

News-watch: BBC Systemically Biased in Favour of EU

A leading broadcast monitoring group has accused the BBC of being systemically biased in favour of the EU.

News-watch monitors public service broadcast programmes to examine whether – as required by law – they deliver impartiality and political balance.

Former BBC journalist David Keighley leads the group and has been researching the BBC's coverage of the EU for more than two decades. His findings show that since 1999 the BBC has consistently given more prominence to pro-EU voices than Eurosceptic ones.

Between 1999 and 2015 News-watch tracked more than 6,000 hours of BBC programming and analysed its coverage of the EU in news and current affairs programmes. This generated thousands of pages of programme logs and more than 8,000 full transcripts of EU-related items running to four million words. It continued its work with new technologies after 2016.

The BBC's coverage since the outcome of the 2016 European Union membership referendum has been particularly noteworthy.

Between June 2016 and January 2019 News-watch compiled eleven reports, conducted under accepted academic principles, into the BBC's coverage of the post-referendum Brexit process.

During that time the group monitored 338 hours of BBC news and current affairs output, of which 81 hours was related to the EU.

Of those 81 hours, 52% of guest contributions were pro-EU whereas only 27% were from a Eurosceptic viewpoint.

The data shows that the BBC has put Brexit under sustained negative attack since the referendum, through inequality in the time given to interviewees, choice of story, and 'bias by omission'.

Incensed at continuing BBC bias, Mr Keighley has just submitted a lengthy complaint on the issue to broadcast regulator Ofcom.

It claims that "the case for withdrawal from the EU was heavily ignored or presented very narrowly, often through the prism of divisions within the Conservative Party, or through focusing primarily on perceived problems within the withdrawal camp.

"The argument for leaving the EU, when linked to immigration issues, has been routinely projected as xenophobic, racist and 'extreme'."

It went on: "The BBC so-called Reality Check unit was not impartial on this issue and in many ways became a vehicle for expressing remain or anti-withdrawal opinion.

"The core of the complaint supported by recent case-law is that the BBC has wrongly interpreted its obligation of ensuring 'due impartiality' and as a result has breached its long-standing Charter obligation (which goes back to at least the Television Act 1954).

"Rather the BBC is obliged to proceed by identifying the main strands of opinion within the public discourse and give each a fair opportunity to be heard so as to provide 'a level playing field for competing views and opinions so that those views and opinions are expressed, heard, answered and debated'."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC is one of the most trusted and used news sources in the world and is committed to reporting impartially and accurately on all subjects, including the EU. Ofcom has never found the BBC to be in breach of the broadcasting code on impartiality. We'll respond directly to the complaint made by Mr Keighley."

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