The BBC has used an European Union-backed professor as an independent “trade expert” for a major news item on Brexit and food prices in its main evening news show.
The report on the Six O’Clock News on BBC One this Wednesday included claims that the price of food would rise if Britain votes to leave the European Union (EU).
As part of that report, BBC Business Correspondent Emma Simpson interviewed Professor Catherine Barnard, asking for her analysis.
Introduced simply as a “trade expert”, Professor Barnard claimed there would be three possible scenarios for food prices if Britain votes to leave: either it remains in the Common Market which would result in “business as usual”, or it enters a new trade agreement, or there is no agreement resulting in tariffs imposed on goods.
Ms Simpson then holds up a pack or bacon, saying if the third scenario happens its price could rise by 15 pence.
She then puts it to Professor Barnard that tariffs could be cut, but the Monnet Chair answers: “Yes, but it would weaken the UK’s hand in any future international trade negotiations.”
Professor Catherine Barnard is Jean Monnet Chair of EU Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge.
The Jean Monnet programme was created by the European Commission with the aim of “stimulating teaching, research and reflection in the field of European integration studies” and universities throughout the world.
At no point is Professor Barnard’s EU affiliation mentioned in the report. Instead, she is simply presented as an “expert”, with the on-screen description reading “University of Cambridge”.
Last month, a report showed that just three per cent of guests invited to talk about the EU on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme over the past decade were Eurosceptic.
The Institute of Economic Affairs also found that an episode of BBC Two’s Newsnight that focused exclusively on the EU question had 18 guests in favour of remaining in the EU but just one who wanted to leave.
Ryan Bourne, author of the report, said: “Given the BBC’s funding mechanism and reputation, this could have an important impact as the UK prepares to vote in a referendum on membership of the EU.”