We need to talk about the BBC's political reporting in this election

3 Dec 2019

 

It is envied across the world for its first-class productions in comedy, drama and entertainment. However, the BBC’s popularity at home is shrinking when it comes to its political reporting. Everyone from the Greens to the Brexit Party has slated its allegedly bias reporting in recent years, and its acronym has been raided many times to portray this. Is it the Brexit Bashing or the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation? I don’t know, but let’s face it, I would be biased in my judgement either way.

 

Due to the universality of the criticisms lodged against the Beeb in recent years, I have thus far ignored the cries of political bias. If everybody on all sides is agitated by the referee, surely, they are doing their job properly? Yet so far, this election campaign has illuminated a staggering number of deficiencies in the BBC’s capacity for impartial reporting. Repeated ‘mistakes’ have seen embarrassing encounters between the public and the Prime Minister erased from BBC News bulletins, including the moment when he was questioned about trust by a Question Time audience member (in response to which the audience erupted with laughter).

 

Then only last week, chief political reporter Laura Kuenssburg – who has already previously been reprimanded for misleading reporting in 2015 – tweeted a direct link to the personal blog of advisor to the Prime Minister and Vote Leave spin master, Dominic Cummings. This wasn’t just reporting, it was practically advertising. As for the biggest story of the week: the revealed Tory plans to expose the NHS to American pharmaceutical markets in a trade deal with the US, it was mostly absent from the BBC’s reporting.

 

What were viewers shown on the official BBC Politics Twitter feed instead? How Boris likes to butter his scones. What a travesty: the BBC is actively hiding the truth about this Prime Minister’s plans for our country and is instead inflating his self-made façade of bumbling idiocy.

 

Their main coverage of the week though homed in on Jeremy Corbyn’s battle with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. "No apology from Corbyn over anti-Semitism claims" read the BBC News headline, in reference to his calamitous interview with Andrew Neil the night before. I admire Neil for his thorough and rigorous interviewing, and I agree that all politicians should face the fiercest grilling to ensure they are held accountable. But, as a democracy, we must ask whether said grilling is being dished out fairly and equally between all sides.

 

Let’s contrast Jeremy Corbyn’s representation in the media with Johnson’s to measure this. There was virtually no mention of the rampant Islamophobia present throughout Johnson’s party; no mention of his party’s own links with anti-Semitic groups in the European Parliament, such as Hungary’s governing party under far-right leader Viktor Orban; and no mention whatsoever of the numerous racist statements about people of colour made by our Prime Minister throughout his life. Where was the BBC headline for any of that?

 

While I am not dismissing Labour’s genuine problems with anti-Semitism, this week has highlighted the BBC’s disgraceful bias in reporting it. From a publicly funded broadcaster in which we should all be able to trust for accurate and balanced coverage, the BBC’s political reporting in this election marks a watershed moment in British journalism.

 

There must now be an inquiry into the BBC’s reporting of recent events and a review of their guidelines on political reporting. In the age of fake news, which is withering the integrity of our democracy, the last thing we need is for our public broadcaster to join in. The BBC must return to fair, honest and balanced reporting if we are to have any hope of maintaining a healthy, functioning democracy.

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