The BBC no longer has a duty to “broadly balance” its coverage of Brexit, Nick Robinson, one of the broadcaster’s most senior political journalists, has said.
The Today programme host and former political editor of the national broadcaster told critics to “leave it out” and “remain calm”.
He differentiated between balance and bias in his column for the Radio Times, welcoming the former and rejecting the latter if it is not justified in the view of him and his colleagues.
“The bias I worry about most is the bias against understanding,” he says.
He insisted the BBC still had a commitment to “due impartiality”, which meant it would get as close to the truth they saw it, but would not represent both sides of the argument if one was wrong in their view.
“The referendum is over. The duty we broadcasters had to ‘broadly balance’ the views of the two sides is at an end,” he wrote.
“Why? Because there are no longer two sides, two campaigns, two rival sets of spokespeople reading out those focus-grouped slogans.”
He was writing after more than 70 MPs wrote to BBC director-general Lord Hall complaining about the “pessimistic” tone of its coverage of Britain’s exit from the Europe Union.
Mr. Robinson continued: “The BBC’s job is not to look over its shoulder wondering whether a report, interview or discussion will provoke letters of complaint or a tide of tweets from Remainers or Leavers – who, like fighters who emerge after months of hiding in a bush, seem not to accept that the war is over.
“Our job, instead, is to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the audience as a whole… People who would not dream of defining themselves by how they voted in the referendum.”
MPs have slammed the BBC twice in six months, also writing to Lord Hall about alleged bias in October last year.
The parliamentarians intervened after research by News Watch revealed listeners to BBC Radio 4 were two and a half times more likely to hear the opinions of a pro-EU speaker than anti-EU guests, despite the referendum result.
News Watch’s report noted: “There were no attempts in any programme to explore the benefits of leaving the EU, but conversely, Brexit came under sustained negative attack.”