Dozens of MPs ac­cuse Cor­po­ra­tion of gloomy cov­er­age

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Ja­son Groves Political Editor

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’.


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