The BBC has come out fighting after a former culture secretary joined Brexiteer MPs to claim that the corporation needed to be more pro-Brexit.
MP John Whittingdale joined politicians from the Tories, UKIP, Labour and DUP to write a letter claiming that the BBC’s coverage of Brexit is ‘perverse and skewed’, and that the organisation was ‘constantly looking for negatives and highlighting the challenges’ of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The letter claimed that a series of ‘economic good news’ had not been covered by the BBC, and that there had been too much focus on ‘regretful’ Leave voters.
It suggested that there was ‘no polling shift towards Remain since the referendum’, despite a majority of polls supporting staying in the EU.
It said that Brexit pessimism should stop because ‘forecasts of immediate economic harm were at best misplaced’, and that ‘the posturing and private opinions of EU figures are too often presented as facts’.
The 70 MPs also fear that the coverage is leaving Brexiteers appearing ‘xenophobic’.
Whittingdale told the Telegraph that MPs should use the new regulator to ‘escalate’ complaints, which could lead to fines and sanctions against the BBC.
However, the director general of the BBC has hit back claiming that the corporation was ‘independent of political pressure’ and would not bow to the demands of Brexiteers.
Lord Hall told the Conservative MP: ‘Impartiality has always been the cornerstone of BBC News. It remains so today.
‘We do not take it for granted and we go to great lengths to ensure that we balance our coverage and address all issues from a wide range of different perspectives.
‘It is one of the reasons why the public trusts the BBC more than any other source of news.
‘I agree with you that these are consequential times. For that reason, it is more important than ever that the BBC’s journalism is independent of political pressure.’
The BBC has fielded complaints from both sides of the Brexit debate since the EU referendum in 2016.
Earlier this year TNE’s Mandrake column reported on the number of Remain campaigners who had been put on hold by the Beeb, sparking fears of a ‘Remainer register’.
It was revealed last year nearly all MEPs feature on Question Time in recent years have been pro-Brexit, with no voices representing the positives of the European Union.