Veteran journalist Michael Buerk has accused BBC staff of making the left-of centre Guardian newspaper their “bible” and political correctness “their creed”.
Mr Buerk – still a BBC presenter – made the comments while reviewing the memoir of his former colleague, Peter Sissons, who also attacks the BBC for having “institutional bias.”
Writing the magazine Standpoint, Mr Buerk said: “What the BBC regards as normal and abnormal, what is moderate or extreme, where the centre of gravity of an issue lies, are conditioned by the common set of assumptions held by the people who work for it.”
He continued: “It’s all very well-meaning, and painstakingly even-handed, but often notably adrift of the overriding national sentiment.”
Buerk and Sissons are just the latest in a long line of former and current BBC journalists who have criticised Britain’s national broadcaster as having an inherent institutional ideological bias.
In 2006, BBC executive Ann Davies questioned whether the corporation should “help break the constraints of the PC police.”
The Sunday Times in 2007 reported that “the bias has extended across drama, comedy and entertainment, with the corporation pandering to politically motivated celebrities and trendy causes”.
The Daily Mail after the publication of 2007 research on the BBC’s impartiality, led with the headline: “BBC comes under fire for institutional left-wing bias” and stated that “senior figures at the corporation were forced to admit it was guilty of promoting left-wing views and an anti-Christian sentiment.”
However, Richard Tait, the BBC Trust member who oversaw the 2007 research said: “It doesn’t say the BBC has a liberal bias – it says the BBC will have to work even harder to maintain the trust of the audience in future” and spoke of a more complex media environment where newspapers had become “viewspapers.”
The 2007 research resulted in the BBC adopting a new set of principles to aid it in guarding its historically much-lauded impartiality.
Most interesting amongst the criticism was perhaps that of former political editor Andrew Marr – of a left-of-centre perspective himself – who explained why he felt the BBC had developed an ideological bias.
He said the BBC was “a publicly-funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people, compared with the population at large” all of which “creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC.” Not so much a leftwing conspiracy then, but merely an accident, or a sort of subtle groupthink that might emerge in any institution dominated by young, university-educated, urban, media-types.
The Daily Telegraph‘s Jeff Randall has spoken of his time as the BBC’s business editor saying, “It’s a bit like walking into a Sunday meeting of the Flat Earth Society. As they discuss great issues of the day, they discuss them from the point of view that the earth is flat.
“If someone says, ‘No, no, no, the earth is round!’, they think this person is an extremist. That’s what it’s like for someone with my right-of-centre views working inside the BBC.”
However, last year the BBC’s news director Helen Boaden – in response to The Daily Mail‘s anti-BBC “Whinge Watch” campaign – said: “I always think that impartiality is in our DNA – it’s part of the BBC’s genetic make-up.”