Political pressure making BBC biased against Labour/Corbyn, says former BBC Trust chair

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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18 thoughts on “Political pressure making BBC biased against Labour/Corbyn, says former BBC Trust chair

  1. Phil Woodford

    No one in the real world is remotely interested in these pathetic conspiracy theories. It’s sad to see Labour people descend to the level of the people who believe in the faked moon landings.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I know you’re a Tory, Phil, but try not to be quite so silly when you comment here.
      The evidence is all around – people ARE interested. In fact, they’re deeply concerned.
      And you, I think, are afraid.

    2. Daniel Connolly

      The bias has been extraordinarily overt of late. I’ma regular Radio 4 listener but recently the news current has been unlistenable due to the blatant anti Corbyn bias. It might be more tolerable if at the same time they didn’t act all craven and lickspittle whenever a Tory is on

    3. John

      Phil, I think YOU’RE the one not living in the real world. It’s just a shame that you don’t seem to want to wake up to what is going on.

  2. mrmarcpc

    Laura Kuenssberg and Emily Maitlis are perfect proof of that, trying to undermine what Labour politicians try to say and then twisting their words, BBC has always been right wing bias, despite what the tories have said for years, it’s a lie, it’s always been conservative at heart and now their lords and masters are trying to get rid of them and yet they still obey them, how pathetic they are!

  3. Neilth

    This, if true, is deeply concerning. I think that a new analysis of the actual output and tenor of the BBC reporting is needed and should be carried out as a scientific analysis. If bias is proven then heads should roll at quite senior levels. The apparent imbalance in approach as evinced by certain reporters should be addressed immediately and they should be warned to return to the balanced reporting of years gone by (long gone by) or be sacked. If an analysis proves bias then I suggest the culprits would be ineligible to work for a public body again.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      He is indeed an ex-Labour councillor – and has been totally up-front about it.
      Let’s think about that, shall we?
      As Chair of the BBC Trust, he would have had to put aside his political leanings and act impartially.
      Let us suppose that he did so, to the best of his abilities.
      Having done so, is it impossible to believe he would be incensed to see others blatantly flaunting a pro-Tory bias where he tried to be impartial?
      No, it isn’t.
      Additionally, you reinforce the point being made against biased BBC reporting – because you, a Tory supporter, simply cannot imagine anybody putting aside their political opinions in the name of balance. You assume that it can’t be done. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that a Tory like Laura Kuenssberg believes the same. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the BBC is indeed biased against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

      1. hayfords

        On 3 August 2007 a House of Lords all-party select committee criticised the way the appointment was handled, saying [Labour] government ministers had too much influence over his appointment.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        And yet they behave in exactly the same way – worse, because they want to institute overtly political appointments to the body that runs the BBC.

  4. Susan Horne

    The BBC have been terrible to Nigel Farage over the years as well, they are not even including him in the big referendum debate which is terrible when you think how long he has been campaigning for it.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Er, isn’t that ITV?
      The BBC has been extremely accommodating to Mr Farage.

  5. John

    I find Tony Hall’s comment “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.” absolutely incredible.
    It suggests that impartiality only exists during the period of a review of the charter.
    Now that the review has ended, does this mean the BBC will be even more biased?
    Like many others, I have simply stopped watching/listening to the BBC.
    I actually prefer Sky TV, Channel 4 TV and RT to the BBC’s hysterical partisanship.
    I never thought I’d find myself saying that; just shows what an odd world we are in.

    1. John

      It isn’t perfect, but I only watch Channel 4 News now. Just don’t trust the BBC anymore. Aside from that, blogs like these, this particular one, because I find Mike’s ‘reporting’ very forensic, for want of another way of putting it.

  6. John

    According to her Wikipedia entry, Kuenssberg is very much a member of the Establishment: The daughter of Scottish businessman Nick Kuenssberg, OBE,[3][4] and his wife Sally Kuenssberg, CBE,[5] her paternal grandfather was the German-born Dr. Ekkehard von Kuenssberg, a founder and president of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Her maternal grandfather was Lord Robertson who was a High Court of Justiciary judge…..Her brother is a senior civil servant in the Department for Communities and Local Government and her sister is a diplomat, High Commissioner to Mozambique since 2014. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Kuenssberg.
    Hardly surprising – then – that she personally should be so opposed to the Labour Party and its Leader, and that she favours fellow and sororal Establishment figures such as herself and Cameron et. al. ?
    Maybe the BBC appointed her to her position to placate the current government while they were negotiating the terms of the new BBC Charter?
    Now that the negotiations are concluded, maybe they will now ditch her?

  7. Brian

    Sir Michael Lyons is eminently qualified to comment on this, he should know, but I have no sympathy with the BBC, this is a result of the trustees allowing the situation to be engineered by the government. Damian is now in charge, and the news content now a state controlled entity that must be judged in that darkness. What is ironic, is that we are paying for their propaganda through the license fee.

  8. NMac

    It may have been going on for years, but of late the anti-Labour/Corbyn bias has become blindingly obvious to most people (not including Phil Woodford who clearly lives in a world of his own).

    1. Brian

      Despite a overwhelmingly Tory hierarchy at the BBC, there is no doubt political pressure from the threat of withdrawing privileges- I use that term loosely. However, the same could be said of viewer pressure. If the BBC is failing to fulfill it’s charter of impartiality, why should the viewer be encumbered with the license fee. The BBC has a lot other than news to offer, that this propaganda is riding on, perhaps it is time to either separate news reporting from them, or gauge support by a license fee, with news an additional paid for option.

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