BBC bias

Subject of the day on Twitter (at least on many of the accounts that I follow and interact with) was BBC bias. Not accusations of institutional leftist bias, which is the the more common criticism, but instead claims that the BBC in fact genuflects to the Establishment and forces of conservatism. The idea that the BBC is riddled with liberals and agents of the left is actually a clever lie perpetuated by the right as a means of policing our state broadcaster.

Well, it’s a theory.

These claims originate from an article by Owen Jones, who now writes for The Guardian (a move which was as inevitable as Lassie coming home). To support his argument he points out that Chris Patten is the Chairman of the BBC Trust; the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson was once chairman of the Young Conservatives; Andrew Neil works there and Stephanie Flanders used to work there but has quit and taken a job with JP Morgan (because, obviously, it’s just not possible to work for a bank and hold anything even approaching left wing or liberal views). Damning evidence there. Conclusive stuff.

OK, so that’s not entirely fair. He does point out a number of other indicators including research by Cardiff University claiming to show a greater representation of Conservative politicians on BBC news than there were Labour politicians on the news when Gordon Brown was prime minister. He also names some other journalists and staff who have either worked for right wing newspapers at some point or have moved onto roles working for senior Conservative Party figures.

All of this may well be true, but it’s a huge leap to claim, as he does, that “the BBC is stacked full of right wingers”. Owen is very much to the left of the political spectrum, so of course he views the BBC as being right wing: pretty much everything is to the right of him. It’s a bit like standing at the North Pole and complaining that everything is south. Of course it is, but only from where YOU are standing.

At the other end of the political spectrum (although they agree on a lot more than either would care to admit) is Peter Hitchens who maintains the polar opposite view: that the BBC is riddled with left wing, liberal, metropolitan types and that the type of people they tend to recruit ensures that such viewpoints seep into nearly every BBC production. Hitchens recounts a number of examples to support his claims. Again, as with the instances highlighted by Jones, I don’t doubt the veracity of any of them. But Hitchens, like Jones, makes claims from his own idiosyncratic viewing point – here, the far reaches of pure conservatism. Hitchens is standing at the South Pole and complaining that everything is north.

Both of them, as far as I can see, get a fair amount of appearances on the BBC. So cry me a river.

The BBC is a monolithic beast that produces a huge amount of television, radio and web content. Some of that content might be produced by left-leaning individuals and it might show. Some of it might be produced by those of a right-leaning bent and it might show. Generally speaking, taking all its output into account, it does a fairly good job of remaining impartial and balanced when it matters.

But then, I would say that. I’m a centrist standing on the equator, with the ability to look north and south.


Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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16 comments on “BBC bias
  1. Frank Bath says:

    Good review. For as long as can I remember left and right have taken aim at the BBC. I did it myself until I came to know the journos there are their fiercest critics, each trying to catch the other out. Nor is there any policy from the top – imagine the howls! Imperfect yes, but real.

  2. “But then, I would say that. I’m a centrist standing on the equator, with the ability to look north and south.”After reading 1 other blog of yours and glancing at the others i wouldn’t say you are central at all definitely on the right the smug side of right as well.On the whole i would say this was a bitchy piece of writing and boring.

  3. marvin says:

    But as you said earlier, there is a cosmopolitan liberal bias more than anything else.

    I worked there, out of about 20 of the social circle there were 4 on the right, all the rest on the left. Most of those on the left agree that most employees are on the left. Indeed, being anything from New Labour to the right was automatically digged & joked over as being bloody Tories (some were less jokey).

    Having said that I feel they do a remarkable job in balanced output most of the time – considering a majority of employees politics are well on the left.

    • Citizen Sane says:

      Exactly. I’m sure most there are metro-lib types. It’s almost guaranteed given the industry and the location. But when you look at the sheer amount of output, it’s surprising how balanced it can be. Not always, but, on the whole, usually.

      • David says:

        You have a point. But now (2018) their news website is strewn with identity politics news stories, day after day. The Daily Mail has their celebrity sidebar. BBC News has what I call an identity politics sidebar. Frankly, I’m sick of it. Some stories on it are of value. But most appear to be there just to promote a certain ideology.

  4. marvin says:

    Need I add I worked with several Green Party members & prominent Green party activists and a member of Respect. Unlikely in the private sector!

  5. gdt says:

    You can have a factory employing almost all woman but still have a man running the show from the top. Relevant or ridiculous North Pole thing grated on my soul somewhat. Boring yes.
    I regularly find myself questioning the BBCs news coverage in terms of Bias Relevance Content and Partiality. Dimbilbys behavior on QT often gives me cause for concern as he can be very partial at times. Andrew Neil Andrew Marr similar.

  6. The Stigler says:

    Not so much skewed to Labour as skewed towards the state and against markets. You can hear it in Radio 4 interviews. Some fakecharity campaign writes a report calling for government to spend more money on something and the question and tone is generally loaded towards the politician who has to defend why they can’t spend the money, rather than the campaigner as to what good the spending will do.

  7. Ian Duncan says:

    Anyone see Question Time with IDS a few days ago? How many questions on his department and it’s many controversies? None.

    I declare shenanigans.

  8. Phil says:

    Surely you must have something to say about the impending break up of the uk. Your voice needs to be heard

  9. Anonymous says:

    Come baCk we need you

  10. Catherine says:

    Great article. I’ve just referenced it in a debate on BBC bias calling Corbyn “left wing”. Um – he is “left wing” in terms of what has come before him for the last 20+ years.

    Please write again more.Do do make rather a lot of sense.

  11. David says:

    The BBC is neoliberal and is obsessed with identity politics. Pretty much like most Western governments.

    Just as the Daily Mail has its ‘celebrity sidebar’ on its website, the BBC News has what I can only describe as an identity politics sidebar. It’s daily crammed full of insipid stories about how such and such a person or group is a victim.

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