Author Alex Nunns has counted how many right-wingers have appeared on BBC Sunday Politics since the 2017 general election. In 19 episodes, the BBC has brought on pundits well to the right of the political spectrum on every show. By contrast, the public service broadcaster has included people on the genuine left only three times. That leaves 16 episodes without a meaningful leftist viewpoint from any of the three guests.
Left, right or centrist
Nunns broadly categorised the guests as either left, right or ‘centrist’. But in the 16 episodes without a leftist voice, the BBC did not even replace the missing perspective with a centrist voice. In all 16, right-wingers dominated the centrists 2:1.
Former BBC host challenges
On 17 December, former Sunday Politics host Andrew Neil challenged Nunns’ characterisation of two pundits as ‘very right-wing’:
You’d have to very hard left to regard Tom or Iain as very right. And Gaby is centre left. So your own ideological prism rather undermines this threatened weekly ‘bias’ test. https://t.co/KFFs0PqwsN
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) December 17, 2017
Nunns referred to Tom Newton Dunn and Iain Martin as “very right wing” and the other guest Gaby Hinsliff as “centrist”. Newton Dunn is the political editor of The Sun, while Martin is a columnist for The Times. Since the general election, The Sun‘s political editor has appeared on BBC Sunday Politics in 12 out of 19 episodes.
Neil, who still presents BBC Daily Politics, also claimed that Hinsliff is centre-left. Yet the Guardian columnist consistently pushed the establishment narrative that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘unelectable’. This was once a near-omnipresent line in mainstream political commentary. But the attack was rendered bogus by the general election result – where Labour increased its vote share by more than at any point since WWII. Now, the BBC appears to be excluding the perspective of a Labour leadership that won around 12.9 million votes in June.
Speaking to The Canary, the BBC responded:
The panel on the Daily Politics is carefully chosen to provide a mix of expert political insight and analysis, as opposed to representing a political party or a political position. They offer their own analysis from a more nuanced and wide-ranging perspective. The panellists can’t automatically be aligned with a particular ideology simply by virtue of the newspaper for which they work. The range of guests on the Sunday Politics reflects an appropriate breadth of opinion over time.
In 84% of Sunday Politics episodes since the election, two right-wingers and one so-called centrist made up the guests. A panel of different shades of neoliberalism doesn’t seem like a “mix of expert political insight”. It looks like a poor show for a public service broadcaster that claims impartiality.
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