Saturday, 11 July 2015

BBC and impartiality

The following exchange took place during Culture, Media and Sport questions in the Commons last Thursday:

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): My right hon. Friend talks about strengthening the BBC, and he is right to say that it has many good values, but one of the problems that has existed over a number of years—the BBC itself has admitted this—is that it has tended to be very much an EU-biased organisation. It is almost institutionally biased. Is that something that the review will take into account?
Mr Whittingdale: The question of how the BBC meets its impartiality requirements is certainly part of the charter review process, as that forms an essential component of its governance. My hon. Friend will be aware that the BBC Trust adjudicates complaints against the BBC about impartiality at the moment. Some people have questioned that, and it is certainly something that we will be considering.
I wonder which BBC these two gentlemen have listening to or watching. Have they ever heard anyone (commentator, politician or ordinary citizen) speak up for the euro on air? Have they ever seen or heard prime-time coverage of  the European Parliament or in-depth analysis of other EU institutions? I must admit that I did hear a journalist once suggest that populist governments rather than the euro were to blame for failures in Ireland and Greece, but she hasn't been on air since to my knowledge.

Then there is the North British Question. Since the general election, which saw the Scottish Nationalists become the third party in the UK parliament, there have been three SNP figures on the panel of Radio 4's Any Questions? In that time there have been four Liberal Democrats. Now, I welcome regular representation of a distinct strand of political thought in this country on AQ? Indeed, I was arguing for it constantly when Liberal Democrats were not only the third party but also in government and were under-represented. In the same period, UKIP (two MPs and one peer at their peak) seemed to be on every other week. It seems that the less significant the threat to the Establishment, the greater the representation on AQ? and vice versa. It is unfair, and I would like to hear more of what Scottish MPs have to contribute to UK (remember that the nation of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK) debates. Not all of them have accents impenetrable to listeners in the Home Counties.

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