Whether it be the Conservative majority in 2015 or the Brexit result in the EU Referendum last year, some quarters of the BBC seemed unable to accept the result. Will they do so this time, asks Rory Broomfield.
The words of the BBC presenter, David Dimbleby, rang out in the early hours of June 24th 2016 when he declared that “We’re Out!”. That hasn’t quite come to pass (at least, not yet), however, the Brexit result was, like the General Election result the year before, a surprise to most of the commentariat that had taken the pollsters at their word and were expecting “no overall majority” in the General Election and then, when the referendum took place, a “Remain” result.
Despite the BBC’s apparent shock at the results, what we have seen since the end of the campaigns is a seeming unwillingness to accept the decision taken by the British people within certain quarters of “Auntie’s empire”.
This “empire” – funded by the TV tax, of course – includes the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme which has consistently been criticised over a number of years by many bodies, individuals and even members of Parliament for their reporting standards. Nonetheless, since the General Election referendum result audiences were still treated to the same tired old hands talking about subject matter that those in leafy Primrose Hill would have loved.
Responding to this, Nick Robinson claimed that the BBC is full of political bias but that it didn’t affect its output. To give the BBC credit, I know that a number of executives and presenters met with a number of Members of Parliament, Peers and MEPs in the run up to the EU Referendum to discuss reporting standards in order to try and ensure balance during the campaign. Putting aside whether the campaign was balanced or not (I believe the latter), what has happened since the referendum has shown that programmes like Today need a reality check.
In the aftermath of the Brexit result, Justin Webb claimed that Remain voters felt let down by the BBC because of the “impartiality rules” which, oddly, seemed to be contradicted months later by Nick Robinson who argued that the BBC had no duty to balance reports. The latter response was provoked by a letter signed by 70 Conservative MPs that claimed the BBC’s reporting risked undermining Brexit and damaging the UK with ‘pessimistic and skewed’ coverage.
In my view, the 70 Members of Parliament signing that letter were correct: the BBC’s constant reporting of “continuity Remain” campaigns and figures has constantly undermined the debate from moving on. The soft interviewing of people like Tony Blair about their plans to stop a so-called “Hard-Brexit” demonstrate the BBC’s desire to help those that agree with them frustrate the Brexit result.
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say their reporting has helped give these groups false hope and has helped provoke this snap general election.
The BBC has become too big and too biased. The big question for the time being though is whether, in an instance where the Labour Party is all but wiped out and the Conservative Party gets a stunning 150 seat majority – as is currently being predicted – the BBC will continue to push its own agenda. My current prediction is that if the Tories don’t get over a 50 seat majority, increasing their current one by three times, that some in the BBC will claim it to be a “moral victory” for the Labour Party and / or the liberal elite.