Watch Clive Lewis MP skewer the BBC and its “disinformation” in the heart of parliament

Clive Lewis
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Labour’s Clive Lewis MP skewered the BBC in the heart of parliament on 15 July. Lewis, who was once the BBC‘s chief political reporter in the eastern region, effectively suggested that the BBC peddles “disinformation emanating from the Conservative party and its allies in the press”.

Scenes

Three e-petitions that reached over 100,000 signatures triggered the parliamentary debate on BBC bias. During the discussion, Lewis cited numerous studies to argue that BBC News is:

overwhelmingly orientated towards the political and economic establishment

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Damning evidence

During his speech to the committee, Lewis took down a common defence of the BBC:

‘If we are attacked from both sides,’ the argument goes, ‘then we must be doing something right.’ However, when faced with conflicting claims, we cannot just dismiss them all and assume that everything is fine; we must assess which are accurate—or which are more accurate.

And it turns out, as Lewis went on to say, there is a weight of evidence suggesting the BBC is “dominated by elite sources”:

  • A major content analysis from Cardiff University revealed that the BBC is pro-business and conservative-leaning in its coverage.
  • Analysis from the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck found the BBC gave double the airtime to Jeremy Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 coup against him.
  • 49% of BBC executives went to a private or grammar school, according to a 2019 Sutton Trust study.
Pro-establishment bias, not pro or anti Brexit bias

Lewis also pointed to studies that found strong right-wing bias from the BBC during the EU referendum:

During the EU referendum, that ‘impartiality as balance’ paradigm, which seems always to lean to the right, was scrupulously applied to the two sides of the referendum campaign, but with the right dominating both. Research by Loughborough University found that Conservative and UK Independence Party representatives accounted for 74% of all party political appearances on television news. Cardiff University found an even higher level of prominence, with Conservatives and UKIP together accounting for almost 80% of politicians.

Press agenda harms BBC‘s remit

And the MP for Norwich South criticised the broadcaster for focusing on stories originating in the billionaire-owned press:

The striking domination of our political debate by the right is exacerbated by the influence of right-wing newspapers. One of the key functions of the BBC should be to act as a bulwark against misinformation and the abuses of private power, but how can it perform that function if its news agenda is set by an often unscrupulous, partisan press, owned by a handful of billionaires, which has spent decades misinforming people on every important issue of the day?

The Canary contacted the BBC for comment, but had received none by the time of publication.

A brighter future

Lewis rounded off by calling for people not to give up on the BBC:

some on the left are so disillusioned with the BBC that they have given up on it altogether. That is a mistake. There are serious problems with the BBC that cannot be ignored, but they can be resolved by making it genuinely independent of Governments—of the left and the right—and accountable not to a narrow elite but to its own staff and to the communities it should represent.

Outlining proposals for BBC reform, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said:

the BBC should be freed of government control, democratised and made representative of the country it serves to help it do that.

The BBC is meant to be independent, but its charter grants governments the power to appoint the chair and four directors of the board and set the level of the licence fee.

One proposal would simultaneously reduce government political influence on the BBC while empowering its workforce and the licence fee payers who fund it. That would see the election of some BBC Board members, for example of executive directors by staff and non-executive directors by licence fee payers.

To help decentralise the BBC, national and regional boards could also be expanded, with elections by BBC staff and local licence fee payers. All boards should be representative of the country, with a minimum representation for women and minority groups.

We must end the BBC‘s government appointee system and make the broadcaster truly accountable to the people. Then the BBC can actually fulfill its stated purpose to educate and inform people free from vested interest. Because, as Lewis hammered home in the heart of parliament, it’s currently doing the opposite.

Featured image via YouTube – UK Parliament

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  • Show Comments
    1. As soon as I turn on the BBC, I get bombarded with Johnson and Hunt. The saturation the tory leadership ‘battle’ is getting is beyond belief. On the odd occasion that Kirsty , Jo or Emily are present on my screen, in those few seconds it’s clear the bias is off the scale, bluer than blue.
      Corbyn , or rather his supporters, have proved this really is a class war and the flags are now fully unfurled on both sides.

    2. I think the Right assume they are always right. A narrow minded viewscape meant not to inform anyone else but to celebrate socially their dominance of the air waves.
      Everywhere their reflection is meant to be seen.
      The BBC has failed in its mandate to inform the public by asking questions or to inspire anyone to be curious about our real world which has nothing to do with these people.
      I don’t think its a class war anymore than a striving for social dominace one sees in the animal kingdom.
      There is a real world, but the BBC isn’t interested.

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