Saturday 7 June 2014

Robert Peston accuses the BBC of having a pro-establishment, right-wing bias

Do you believe that the BBC has a left-liberal bias, and that it tends to follow the lead of the Guardian more than it does the Mail and Telegraph

I've spent some five years arguing that kind of thing - as have the massed ranks of other posters and commenters from blogs like Biased BBC to the Spectator, from the Telegraph to Breitbart London

Several present and former BBC presenters have also said as much - from Peter Sissons to John Humphrys, from Jeff Randall to Andrew Marr, from Helen Boaden to Mark Thompson.

Another famous BBC name has now joined the debate though - the BBC's Economics Editor, Robert Peston, no less.

Except that he's saying the exact opposite.

The left-wing Twitterati are lapping it up.

Robert Peston was giving the 6th Charles Wheeler Lecture  at the University of Westminster. In the Q&A session that followed [with a left-biased audience, by the sound of the questioners!] he was asked whether he agrees with Jeff Randall's oft-quoted remark that the corporation has an "institutional left-wing bias". 

He replied:
Look, I love Jeff. He's a great mate of mine. But it's bollocks really.
If I'm honest, the BBC's routinely so anxious about being accused of being left-wing, it quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, [a] rather right-wing direction, so that it's not accused of that.
Later, he added
There's a slightly 'safety first' thing at the BBC - that if we think the Mail or the Telegraph is gonna lead with it, then we should lead with it. I happen to think that's mad.
I don't know about you but I'm inclined to say, "Look, I like Robert. He's great at playing Mr Punch, and his thing with Eddie Mair is quite funny. But it's bollocks really." 

Still, what he says is what surveys show that quite a lot of people believe [unless you think they're being disingenuous].

You will, no doubt, recall that YouGov poll from last year:
Do you think that, overall, the BBC's coverage of British politics is fair or biased?
Fair 35%
Biased towards the left-of-centre 17%
Biased towards the right-of-centre 4%
Biased towards "establishment' views rather than left or right 16%
Not sure 28%
I would still say that the startling figure there is that only 35% of respondents believe the BBC to be fair (as far as its coverage of British politics is concerned) - i.e. 65% of respondents don't think it's fair (for one reason or another - including uncertainty). 

Those who don't agree with what Robert Peston said though can, perhaps, take comfort from the possibility that a disgruntled anti-BBC Left and a disgruntled anti-BBC Right might, though attacking from completely different directions, so scupper the BBC's precious reputation for impartiality that the license fee becomes even less feasible than ever. (Our enemy's enemy is our friend).

Of course, Robert Peston says he, himself, isn't biased:
I suppose the thing which gives me most comfort in all of this is that if you make the mistake of looking at my Twitter stream you will see that I am unbelievably passionately attacked by certain people for being too right-wing and by other people for being far too left-wing, and it just seems to me that if one is in the position of being attacked from all sides one might be in the right place.
BBC editors are always appearing on Newswatch saying that very thing, repeating the mantra that 'We get complaints from both sides, which shows we're getting it about right', over and over and over again. They clearly think it's a knock-down argument. It isn't. It ignores the quantity and the quality of the complaints from either side. 

OK. I'll now leave it to the unbelievably passionate types out there to get out their slapsticks and tell Robert, "That's not the way to do it!"


  1. Poor guy lost his wife early last year-so forgive him anything.
    Peston is wrong in my opinion...but never sense he`s a callow oaf like so many of the BBCs elite...Andrew Marr has also had his tragedies, so it does affect my views on him...wish them both well...and seem to know enough to be worth the argument( as opposed to a Toynbee or Jones, Crick or Snow-who seem to learn nothing along the way)

    1. Bless you, Chris, for writing that. I agree completely.


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