160512 Lyons
The former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has admitted what some of us have been saying for years – that political pressure has been exerted on the Corporation to bias its news coverage in favour of the Conservatives and against Labour.

Sir Michael Lyons was chair of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011. He spent much of his career in local government, in chief executive posts, but he was also briefly a Labour councillor in the early 1980s.

He said on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that political pressure was making the BBC biased against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn:

“I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the BBC has sought to hedge its bets of late. There have been some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party, quite extraordinary. I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.”

That could be a reference to the controversy around Laura Kuenssberg – but it could also relate to her bosses at BBC News such as James Harding, to whom a petition has been addressed, demanding a review of her position.

Challenged as to whether he really believed this, Sir Michael continued:

“All I’m voicing is the anxiety that has been expressed publicly by others.”

The petitioners against Kuenssberg?

“We had here a charter review process which has been littered with wild kites flown which, we can’t see the string is held by the secretary of state, but the suspicion is that actually it’s people very close to him. His own comments have suggested that he might be blessed by a future without the BBC. Is the BBC strong enough to withstand a challenge to its integrity and impartiality?”

Like This Writer, he added that although he welcomed many aspects of the white paper, such as the continuation of the licence fee and regulation by Ofcom, he was concerned about threats to the BBC’s independence:

“The really big question is, is the BBC safe from interference by this government? Because this process has certainly led to very real suspicions that ministers want to get much closer to the BBC, and that is not in anybody’s interests.”

And he said it was a mistake for the BBC to agree last year to fund free TV licences for the over-75s from its budget – a decision that critics such as This Writer say has led to the BBC paying for a political policy, in contravention of its supposed impartiality.

The BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, has rejected the claim that the Corporation has shown bias. But look at what he said:

“That is an extraordinary claim to make, that our journalists and our journalism would in any way not treat impartially all sides of arguments during a review of the charter.”

We don’t need to read any more because we know that this is exactly what has happened.

Perhaps the BBC’s problems have been coming straight from the top.


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