70 MPs sign complaint letter to BBC over 'skewed' Brexit coverage - corporation says 'it is our job to scrutinise' - Press Gazette

70 MPs sign complaint letter to BBC over 'skewed' Brexit coverage - corporation says 'it is our job to scrutinise'

The BBC has said it will continue to do its job and hold politicians to account following criticism from a number of mainly Tory MPs who said the broadcaster’s Brexit coverage was biased.

Around 70 MPs have signed a letter to BBC director-general Lord Hall, which accused the corporation of failing to break out of “pre-referendum pessimism”.

The BBC responded: “While we are always live to our critics and understand that passions are running high on all sides of the debate, it is the job of the BBC to scrutinise and analyse the issues on behalf of the public and to hold politicians to account across the political spectrum.

“That is what the BBC has been doing. It is what the BBC will continue to do. It is precisely because of this that the public trusts the BBC.”

Tory MP Julian Knight claimed in the letter that the public service broadcaster’s inability to “accept new facts” was skewing its coverage.

The complaint was signed by 60 other Tory MPs, including former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers, two Tory peers, three Labour MPs, eight DUP MPs, two DUP peers and Ukip’s only MP.

They said the BBC has fallen “far short “of its obligation to provide balanced coverage, warning “if politicians and the public don’t view it as an impartial broker, then the future of the BBC will be in doubt”.

The MPs and peers criticised the broadcaster for “unfairly representing” Leave voters, including by focusing on those who regret backing Brexit “despite there being no polling shift towards Remain since the referendum”.

“We know many Leave-voting constituencies have felt their views have been unfairly represented,” the letter stated.

“This phenomenon is weakening the BBC’s bond with the 52 per cent who voted Leave and all who wish to make a success of the decision made”.

The group also claimed the BBC had “skewed” good economic news since the June referendum, adding: “So-called ‘despite Brexit’ reporting may be expected of a partisan press, but licence fee-payers have the right to expect better.”

They added: “The BBC has a much larger market share than any newspaper – it runs the most-used news website in the country, on top of its television and radio coverage.

“This, as well as viewers’ belief in its neutrality, means that BBC bias can have a substantial effect on the national debate.

“BBC coverage also shapes international perceptions of the UK: we fear that, by misrepresenting our country either as xenophobic or regretful of the Leave vote, the BBC will undermine our efforts to carve out a new, global role for this country.

“We are therefore asking you to take steps to correct these flaws in the BBC’s coverage of our EU exit at the earliest moment.”



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette