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Minister accidentally accuses Art Attack presenter of ‘bias’ as he tries to lay in to BBC

Huw Merriman accidentally lashed out at ex-Art Attack presenter Neil Buchanan for his reporting of the government’s work on Universal Credit

Archie Mitchell
Tuesday 23 January 2024 11:37 GMT
Tory minister says BBC is biased because of satirical news quiz

A government minister has accused the former presenter of Art Attack of anti-Tory bias in a bungled attack on the BBC.

In an extraordinary gaffe, Huw Merriman mistakenly lashed out at Neil Buchanan for his reporting of the government’s work on Universal Credit.

But Mr Buchanan never reported on Universal Credit, and was in fact the presenter of the children’s arts and crafts show between 1990 and 2007.

Instead, Mr Merriman appeared to be referring to BBC social affairs correspondent Michael Buchanan, who has previously reported on the rollout of Universal Credit.

Mr Merriman said the ex-Art Attack presenter always gave one side of the story (PA)

Transport minister Mr Merriman, who was working in the Department of Work and Pensions at the time, said Mr Buchanan had “always given one side” of the story about Universal Credit.

The extraordinary gaffe came as Mr Merriman was grilled over claims by culture secretary Lucy Frazer that the BBC is biased.

Ms Frazer said she believed the broadcaster had been biassed “on occasion”, as she discussed a potential move for media regulator Ofcom to have more powers over the BBC News website.

Neil Buchanan did not write about Universal Credit (PA)

Mr Merriman was quizzed by Sky News presenter Kay Burley, who demanded evidence of the claim. He said: “When I worked at the Department of Work and Pensions doing work on Universal Credit there was an individual there who would report on it, Neil Buchanan, who I always felt gave one side of the story and not the other side, which was the government side."

He also suggested the corporation was biassed against the Conservatives because of its popular News Quiz.

Mr Merriman told Sky News: “Let me give you an example, I know that you were searching for them yesterday. I was listening to the News Quiz, which is on Radio 4 at 6.30pm on Friday when I was driving to my constituency office.

"For 10 minutes all I heard, and it wasn’t satirical, it was just diatribe against Conservatives, not the government. And I did listen to that and think ‘for goodness sake, where’s the balance in that? So yes, I’m afraid to say despite the fact I’ve always been a big supporter of the BBC, that struck me as completely biassed.”

Ms Burley pointed out that the News Quiz is a comedy show, while others noted that the show has criticised left wing politicians in the past.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “The government spending another day undermining the BBC, this time for supposed bias in a satirical news quiz, is laughable.

“Is this the Tories for the next few months? Is this really all they have to offer working people? Scraping the barrel.”

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