Sharp rise in complaints of political bias on TV

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The Independent Online
THERE was a sharp rise in complaints from viewers alleging

political bias in a wide range of programmes during the spring and early summer, according to a report by the Independent Television Commission.

The ITC, which monitors all commercial channels, says complaints - ranging from bias to bad language - rose to a total of 498 in the quarter between April and June, compared with 429 in the previous three months.

Complaints about breaches of impartiality in news and current affairs totalled 64, divided between 52 for ITV, 12 for Channel 4. The ITC explains this by the heightened public sensitivity created by the general election. None of the complaints was upheld.

They included two viewers who queried a World in Action programme about MPs' outside business interests which was screened during the election campaign. This was previewed by the ITC, and held to be within the impartiality code.

But there were also nine complaints about bias, though none were upheld, in a broad range of programmes. One viewer, for instance, complained about dialogue in Medics in which a character complained about the National Health Service: this was said to be anti-Tory. In Bob's Your Uncle, a joke about the Labour Party also provoked protest. Another complaint involved an interview with Labour's Robin Cook on Channel 4 Racing.

The ITC also previewed a number of items in Patient Power, a Granada series of adult education programmes. One, due for transmission on the day before the election, dealt with patients' complaints about mistreatment by a fund-holding GP still being investigated. This was a matter of major public controversy and the ITC asked for it to be deferred.

It also instructed Channel 4 to withdraw a Comment programme on behalf of the Conservative Party on 29 April, the eve of the local elections.

Programme Complaints and Interventions; available from the ITC Information Office, 70 Brompton Road, London SW3 1EY.