Tory minister Liam Fox accused of behaving like 'tinpot dictator' over BBC Brexit bias claims

International Trade Secretary demands meeting with corporation's Director General over 'unbalanced' reporting

Benjamin Kentish
Sunday 23 July 2017 22:31
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Liam Fox has previously claimed some parts of the media 'would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed'
Liam Fox has previously claimed some parts of the media 'would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed'

Liam Fox has been accused of behaving like a “tinpot dictator” after condemning the BBC for what he claimed is “biased” reporting of Brexit.

The International Trade Secretary has written to the corporation’s Director General, Lord Tony Hall, to seek a meeting to discuss what he alleged was the BBC “wilfully” ignoring positive stories about Britain's exit from the EU.

"I cannot recall a single time in recent times when I have seen good economic news that the BBC did not describe as 'despite Brexit',” he wrote.

There is a “clear pattern of unbalanced reporting of the EU economy” and the work of the Department for International Trade, Dr Fox added in the letter.

The cabinet minister, a vocal Brexit supporter, highlighted the BBC’s decision not to cover statistics on annual foreign direct investment released by his department and said the corporation had declined to interview him about a recent trade visit to Paris.

“I understand that the BBC cannot cover every story and I appreciate too that, despite its best efforts, the corporation cannot always guarantee total impartiality,” he wrote.

“However, I believe that we are now seeing a clear pattern of unbalanced reporting of the UK economy and, when it comes to the work of my department, evidence of the corporation wilfully ignoring positive economic data when we publish it.”

Earlier in the month Dr Fox told MPs: “It does feel like some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed.”

His latest intervention led the Liberal Democrats to accuse Dr Fox of behaving like a “tinpot dictator”.

Alistair Carmichael, the party’s Chief Whip, said: "This is a blatant attempt at intimidating the BBC and undermining the independence of our media.

"The BBC shouldn't be bullied into publishing government propaganda and has rightly stood its ground.

"Liam Fox is acting like a tinpot dictator. He can't blame the media for his inability to deliver on all the trade deals promised by the Brexiteers."

A BBC spokesperson said: “No organisation takes coverage of the economy more seriously.

“We do not recognise the characterisation of our coverage outlined in the letter, but the BBC is always happy to talk with politicians as we always do on a regular basis.”

Mr Fox’s claims come just weeks after Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, was lambasted for saying UK broadcasters should be more “patriotic” in their coverage of Brexit.

"It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic," she told BBC Newsnight. "The country took a decision, this Government is determined to deliver on that decision."

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