BBC’S BREXIT BIAS STORM
Dozens of MPs accuse Corporation of gloomy coverage
THE BBC today stands accused of clear anti-Brexit bias over its coverage of voters’ decision to leave the EU. Around 70 MPs are understood to have signed a letter to director-general Lord Hall last night complaining about the Corporation’s gloomy reporting of the crucial issue.
Tory MP Julian Knight, who co-ordinated the letter, warned that the BBC was in danger of losing touch with its viewers and giving too much airtime to ‘diehard Remainers’.
It had a duty to offer impartial coverage of Brexit, he said. Mr Knight, a former BBC journalist who backed Remain during last year’s referendum campaign, insisted the letter was not intended as ‘BBC baiting’.
But he added: ‘It must be careful not to lose the trust of the 52 per cent who voted Leave, as well as those Remainers like myself who respect the will of the people and want to get on with delivering Brexit.’
He warned that the BBC ‘can’t afford to be out of touch with Brexit voters and with the towns and villages beyond where the Corporation is based’.
The letter comes as BBC1’s Countryfile has been accused of pursuing an anti-Brexit agenda. Last night the BBC insisted its coverage of Brexit has been ‘responsible and impartial’ but Mr Knight said it was giving too much prominence to diehard Remainers who refuse to accept the referendum result.
He argued there was too little scrutiny of the
aggressive anti-Brexit statements made by some EU officials and leaders, which are often reported as fact.
Writing on the Conservative Home website, he said: ‘I have few complaints about the BBC’s coverage of the referendum itself – even though my side lost – but I have to agree with one of my constituents who suggested the Corporation has suffered a “collective nervous breakdown” over the result.
‘ One example is the prominent coverage given to so- called “regretful Remainers” in the aftermath of the vote, even though all available polling suggests no shift in public opinion towards the EU since the vote. I’m also concerned that whilst the BBC is diligent in scrutinising the British Government’s position on Brexit, statements from Brussels politicians are too often reported without the vital context that they too are positioning themselves ahead of the negotiations to come.’
The letter to Lord Hall and BBC chairman Sir David Clementi has been signed by about 70 MPs. Sources said most backers are Tories, but there are some Labour MPs and Democratic Unionists.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who signed the letter, said: ‘Anyone can see that the way the BBC is covering this issue is not balanced. Everything is reported in a negative way, and we are subjected to endless coverage of the likes of Blair and Major.
‘We are constantly told by the BBC that it is all too difficult and everything is going to go wrong – it is almost as if they feel they have to act as the opposition on this.’ Tory MP Steve Baker said: ‘I am fed up with the sneering tone of voice which is often used by the BBC when discussing Brexit. We are leaving the EU and it is time the BBC dealt with it and started treating the issue impartially and on behalf of the whole of its audience, including the millions who voted to leave.’
Last night the Corporation insisted: ‘The BBC is covering the political and financial events following the referendum vote in a responsible and impartial way. The BBC is also one of the great exports of this country and makes a significant contribution to the UK creative sector.’
Mr Knight also raised concerns over the BBC’s coverage of the Scottish independence debate, saying it should ‘take more care to introduce viewers to the SNP’s increasingly ramshackle record in office in Edinburgh’.