BBC accused of political bias – on the right, not the left

 

Media Editor

The BBC has been accused of yielding to political pressure since the last election and allowing a right-wing bias to emerge in its journalism.

The serious criticism by a distinguished media professor suggests that the BBC has compromised its impartiality by depending too heavily on sources from business, the media, law and order and politics.

By contrast, ITV and Channel 4 make much greater use of sources from academia, medicine, science and non-governmental organisations.

Professor Justin Lewis, Dean of Research at Cardiff University and an experienced analyst of the BBC’s output, suggested that the BBC Trust had “played down” the findings, which were presented to the governing body last year.

In an essay to be published next month, Professor Lewis states: “The available evidence on the BBC centre of gravity does not suggest a leftist tilt. On the contrary, its dependence on certain dominant institutions notably in the business world and the national print media – would appear to push it the other way.”

He concludes: “The most plausible hypothesis is that the BBC has, under pressure, been pushed to the right.”

The finding contradicts previous claims of a left-wing skew at the BBC. Former Director General Mark Thompson has said there was “massive left-wing bias” during the late-Seventies. As recently as last November, a poll suggested most members of the public thought the BBC favoured the left.

Professor Lewis said that the suggestion that the BBC was vulnerable to pressure from the Government of the day was especially worrying in the context of its application for a new Royal Charter. The BBC is preparing for negotiations over its licence fee settlement beyond the current charter, which runs out at the end of 2016. “It is the BBC’s cyclical dependence upon whoever happens to be in government during the licence renewal period that is the greatest threat to its impartiality.”

He referenced work last year by his Cardiff University colleagues, led by Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, which found that the BBC was more likely than ITV or Channel 4 to use sources from the right – such as US Republicans or Ukip politicians – than from the left (US Democrats or Green politicians). The imbalance in favour of Conservatives over Labour was three to one for party leaders and four to one for ministers/shadow ministers.

Professor Lewis said the findings showed “no similar patterns” on ITV or Channel 4 but were ignored by the BBC’s governing body, which commissioned the research. “These were not findings the BBC Trust was especially keen to draw attention to, and – oddly for a review about impartiality – they were played down in the subsequent report.”

He also claimed that the BBC’s assumptions about the benefits of business had contributed to its failure to “anticipate the credit crash”. Its military spending debate was “decidedly lop-sided” because of its reliance on the views of the “top brass”.

Cardiff research found that 50 per cent of BBC sources came from politics, business, law and order and media, compared to 10 per cent from the knowledge-based professions and civic groups. Business sources accounted for 11.1 per cent of the total on the BBC, but only 3.8 per cent on ITV and 2.2 on Channel 4.

The BBC Trust rejected the idea it played down findings of right-wing bias, saying the research had been published alongside an independent review by (former ITV CEO) Stuart Prebble into the breadth of opinion reflected in BBC output. “As the author of the report, it was for Stuart Prebble to reach his own conclusions,” said a spokesperson.

A BBC News spokesman said: “BBC News aims to provide clear, impartial and balanced coverage across all output to represent a range of views. Inevitably, there may be disagreements over the level of prominence given to any story. We are editorially independent and do not bow to pressure from political parties.”

‘How the BBC leans to the right’ by Justin Lewis is an essay from the book ‘Is the BBC in Crisis?’ which will be published on 1 March. An extract can be found here.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soutions Architect TOGAF - Reading

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Excellent Corporate Benefits: Progressive Recruitm...

CAD Design Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: CAD Design Do you have a...

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on