The BBC routinely finds itself under attack from society. Its TV Licence fee is regularly slammed and criticised as ancient, expensive – and unnecessary.
The lack of sport and the amount of money spent on ‘pointless shows’ is also a source of discontent, with many dismayed at the ‘waste of taxpayers’ money’.
But since the UK’s decision to leave the EU after the Referendum last June, the Corporation has been accused of being pro-EU and anti-Brexit, to the concern and agitation of many. This ‘bias’ is clear in many news broadcasts, and in topical affair shows.
It doesn’t stop there either. The BBC Director-General Lord Hall claimed last year the company had in fact helped Remain to lose the EU Referendum because of its ‘balanced’ coverage.(i) Now, some would say he was just stating his opinion, but others claim it showed the organisation’s stance towards Brexit.
Such was the BBC’s negative coverage following the Referendum, in March, 70 MPs wrote to Lord Hall, accusing it (the BBC) of pessimism.(ii) The letter was signed by notable figures, including former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith and former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers. The letter stated: “BBC bias can have a substantial effect on national debate. We fear that, by misrepresenting our country either as xenophobic or regretful of the Leave vote, the BBC will undermine our efforts to carve out a new, global role for this country.” Understandable concerns from the MPs, whose roles are meant to represent the Great British Public.
Former Director-General Mark Thompson has previously said there was a “left-wing bias” at the BBC,(iii) but recently pro-Corbyn supporters have accused the organisation of backing the Government.(iv) Any such ideas will surely have been discredited by the audience at the BBC election debate this week, where the BBC did nothing to calm down a large, loud and left-wing audience.(v) Virtually every comment by Jeremy Corbyn and his fellow left-wingers was applauded and cheered, while Amber Rudd and Paul Nuttall were met with silence, groans and even jeers.
Political opposites apart, the main issue is, and remains, the continuing negativity regarding Article 50 and the ongoing negotiations with the EU. The supposed pitfalls of leaving the Union are regularly aired, and it seems the positive reports from leading banking, trade, and industrial figures about Britain’s future are watered down or ignored.
A recent investigation by the independent monitoring group News-Watch on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, highlighted the alleged bias.(vi) News-Watch was established by Nigel Farage’s predecessor as UKIP leader, Lord Pearson, and provides a unique and absolutely critical service in generating comprehensive evidence of the BBC’s relentless bias.
In the week following the triggering of Article 50, 124 guests were interviewed for the Today Programme, each of whom spoke against the process. This was in comparison to 6.5%, or 8 people, speaking in favour of Brexit.
Veteran BBC journalist Nick Robinson, who presents the programme, then compounded the issue by declaring that “the BBC no longer had a formal duty to broadly balance Brexit coverage”!(vii)
Other BBC reporters have also been accused of using words that portray Brexit as a mistake, and having too much of an opinion, for what is meant to be an impartial public service.(viii)
Whether the BBC likes it or not, the nation voted to leave the European Union last June. Yes, it took many people by surprise, but it still doesn’t make it right to focus on negative issues in the hope of causing doubt and concern. The ‘Beeb’ originally and carefully trod on a tightrope in the preceding months and weeks before the Referendum, making sure there was no bias. When one side made a claim, it instantly broadcast a rebuttal by the other in accordance with pre-Referendum guidelines. This period has now passed, and it seems it has decided to pursue a very negative vendetta.
What of the opportunities Britain will have once it functions as an independent, sovereign state? What about the chance to establish trading links with whichever country we choose, and on terms which will be beneficial to the UK economy, once we are released from the constraints of our EU membership?
Does the BBC ever commentate on this aspect of Brexit? No! Do they commentate on what Britain stands to lose from leaving the EU? Yes!
Does Sky, for that matter? Another major part of British broadcast media, Sky has been almost as relentlessly pessimistic as the BBC.(ix) With fewer and fewer of the Great British Public reading newspapers, the broadcast media as a whole is increasingly important. Though it is charged with being neutral, this neutrality is itself judged by people who are not neutral. Thanks to this, both Sky and the BBC have damaged both of their reputations for neutrality, and they have also shown how fickle the legal requirement for broadcast news to be neutral can be.
We at Get Britain Out are not suggesting the BBC is a bad or corrupt organisation. After all, its model has been copied and used as a template for broadcasters around the world since its creation in 1922. But what we are saying is the coverage of Brexit is unfair, biased and needs to be structured in a much fairer and more constructive way.
Great Britain is entering a new dawn, and while Remoaners continue to blast Article 50, harping on about us heading into the abyss, the reality is much different. The BBC needs to start focussing on a much more positive approach, accepting the democratic will of the people, instead of trying to remain the anti-establishment authority.
Jayne Adye is Director of cross-party Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out