The BBC has overwhelmingly suppressed Eurosceptic views in its coverage of the European Union (EU) over the years, a study has found.
Research by think-tank Civitas found that of 4,275 guests discussing EU matters on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme between 2005 and 2015, only 132 — or 3.2 per cent — backed leaving the EU, despite public support for withdrawal throughout the period.
Entitled, The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation?, the study revealed that in the six months following the EU referendum, only 10 (2.9 per cent) of 366 speakers featured on Today’s business news were supporters of Britain leaving the EU.
It also said the BBC’s coverage has consistently excluded voices of left-wing Euroscepticism, noting the corporation has tended to present criticism of Brussels and support for leaving the EU “through the prism of Tory splits”.
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In 274 hours of BBC EU coverage monitored between 2002 and 2017, only 14 speakers (0.2 per cent of the total) were left-wing advocates for leaving the bloc, and they spoke only 1,680 words.
Globalist, liberal Tory grandees Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke — who the report said were treated with “kid gloves and reverential listening” by interviewers — made 28 appearances between them in the same period.
With contributions totalling more than 11,000 words, the two arch-Europhile Tories received around seven times the airtime given to all left-wing EU critics.
As a result, the BBC’s audience has been “kept in the dark about left-wing/Labour support for leaving the EU”, the report suggests.
“Core left-wing arguments against the EU” including “its prohibition of state aid to protect jobs, the threat to the NHS from the TTIP agreement … and the belief that the EU has evolved into a ‘neoliberal marketplace’ [were] largely ignored” in BBC coverage of the debate around Britain’s membership of the bloc.
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Report authors David Keighley and Andrew Jubb wrote: ‘When opinion in favour of leaving the EU has featured, the editorial approach has – at the expense of exploring withdrawal itself – tended heavily towards discrediting and denigrating opposition to the EU as xenophobic.”
They added: “The overview provided here is a shocking indictment of the BBC’s failure to achieve impartiality,” and called for a judicial review of the taxpayer-funded corporation’s complaints process.
A spokesman for the BBC said: ‘There have been a number of flawed ‘analyses’ trying to depict the BBC as favouring one side or other. The reality is we’re no longer covering the binary choice of a referendum held 18 months ago, we’re covering the process towards Brexit in a responsible and impartial way independent of political pressure.”