‘BBC presenters have deeply held left-wing political views’. Do they? That’s not what the evidence suggests

If anyone should be complaining about BBC bias it is the left rather than the right.

Yesterday Conservative MP Angela Watkinson told the Commons that the BBC was failing to “provide balanced information”. Instead giving viewers “political opinion” masquerading as news.

“The personal political views of news presenters are often transparent when they conduct interviews. Interviewees with whom they do not agree are talked over and interrupted, and another question is asked before the first has been answered in an aggressive style that contrasts noticeably with the respectful, unchallenging approach shown to favoured interviewees,” Ms Watkinson said.

Fellow Tory Alec Shelbrooke has also attacked Question Time for being “dominated by left-wing opinion”. He added that the show included too many non-politicians as panellists.

Aside from the fact that non-politicians on the QT panel are almost always far less cagey – and therefore much more interesting – than their politician counterparts, is QT, and the BBC in general, guilty of left-wing bias?

With QT the panel is generally made up of a mixture of guests from across the political spectrum. I have in the past noticed that the audience tends to lean more to the left than the right, but it is hard to see how this is manufactured in any way by the BBC – I’ve been in the QT audience myself and recall no questions being asked as to my political persuasion.

I would also add that the QT audience often leans heavily toward “establishment liberalism”, as Nick Cohen puts it, more than it does leftism – a very important distinction which would take too long to go into here.

As for the much bigger question of whether or not the BBC is actively cool toward the conservative view of life, it is about time this notion was put to bed once and for all (it won’t be of course, for the right will have learned from the US that aggressively accusing television channels of “bias” is the best way of ensuring their servility).

In August 2013, academics at Cardiff University investigated so-called political bias at the BBC. They looked at news coverage from both 2007 and 2012 so as to analyse coverage under both the last Labour government and the Coalition.

Far from left-wing bias, the researchers found a clear bias toward the Tories. Whereas in 2007 Gordon Brown outnumbered David Cameron in appearances by a ratio of two to one, in 2012 David Cameron outnumbered Ed Miliband by nearly four to one. Across the entire period researchers studied, Tory politicians were featured more than 50 per cent more often than Labour ones. The researchers concluded that:

“The evidence is clear that the BBC does not lean to the left it actually provides more space for Conservative voices.”

The same was true of the corporation’s business coverage:

“Opinion was almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage. The fact that the City financiers who had caused the crisis were given almost monopoly status to frame debate again demonstrates the prominence of pro-business perspectives.”

In other words, if anyone should be complaining about BBC bias it is the left rather than the right.
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32 Responses to “‘BBC presenters have deeply held left-wing political views’. Do they? That’s not what the evidence suggests”

  1. gl1986

    QT specifically asks about political affiliation when you apply and asks about your views on certain subjects.

  2. Peter

    But she believes it to be true and that’s enough for a current Tory MP.

    I am beginning to think that Tory and other right wingers use the closet left wing bias or liberal rather than admit people have pointed out that they are lying.

    What did Trumpkin say “And you see why we don’t like you””

  3. Nick Pearce

    I wouldn’t trust that analysis from Cardiff. Everyone knows that university academics are bunch of lefties…

  4. Sparky

    Left wing academics from Cardiff University investigated whether there was Left wing bias at the BBC. Guess what they found.

    And that paragraph about business coverage. “Opinion was dominated by hedge fund managers, stockbrokers, and investment bankers”. For crying out loud. Who do you think the BBC is going to interview -painters, writers, philosophers, musicians?

  5. Sseug Dnomyar

    (1) Those whose personal and financial attachments don’t necessarily entail a skewered world-view; moreover, impartiality usually requires balances — exclusively focusing on finance capitalists is not balance.

    (2) Why do you consider it absurd to ask a ‘(e.g. political) philosopher’ about questions of politics? A position of justice/morality would offer a much needed counter-point to neoclassical economic orthodoxy, which is unjustifiably naturalised in our culture (i.e. not recognised for its historicity and contingency).

  6. Levinas

    What with IDS belief based policy making, refuting statistical evidence as biased as he goes, Conservatism seems to be becoming more of a religion on par with creationism than a political persuasion.

  7. Bobby

    Trade Unions would be the obvious ones. A recent piece on Cameron “going to war on “EU red tape” simply provided quotes from all the business leaders who had written the report he was using, only at the last sentence was a short quote from the TUC included. There are plenty of pundits, experts and media commentators who could be called in to provide balance. Also it seems whenever there is a strike like the recent teachers one Tory politicians are grilled not from the perspective of the teachers but as to why they are not doing more to break the strike.

  8. Selohesra

    The QT audience would give the North Koreans a run for their money when it comes to clapping any time someone says banker/tories/cuts are evil

  9. Cochyn

    Business coverage: they could interview people struggling to run businesses, especially small & medium businesses, usually family-run, i.e. the vast majority of business people in the UK…………………?

  10. Cochyn

    I wonder why people applaud……? Could there really be electric shocks applied to their seats, or………….is it, could it be, that they [we] really do loathe and mistrust bankers……….?

  11. BarryE

    When was the last time Ha-Joon Chang was invited to comment, for example?

  12. Sparky

    I can tell that you’ve never run a business. In fact, i’ll bet that you work in academia. Because that’s not the purpose of business reporting. Business is concerned with markets. How are US equities performing? Should businesses hedge against Euro rises? Is spot gold peaking? How will upheaval in the Middle East affect oil prices? How will new border controls affect migrant employment? These are the facts that businesses want to know. They’re not interested in guys in corduroy and beards debating morality and ethics. If they were interested, that’s what business channels would show. Have you ever watched Bloomberg? How many philosophical discussions are there? Why not?

  13. Knobber Jobbler

    Both are dominated by ignorance and stupidity.

  14. Selohesra

    More likely the audience simply filled by the entitlement brigade who dont understand that if you drive the top 10% of earners away there will be a huge hole in govt revenues and no one to pay for the NHS and your precious benefits

  15. Neitherangryorscared

    Or another way to look at it is if you drive the top 10% away you leave a 10% sized gap for others to get rich in.

    The current inhabitees aren’t all that special.

  16. Nigel Wootton

    The greedy rapacious Tories are so fanatically right wing, that they attack the BBC for not being right wing enough! This is despite the BBC giving much more air time to Tories, investment bankers and other wealthy industrialists, and much less air time to unions and the general public’s views. The BBC is a public service broadcaster financed by the TV license fee, and therefore should give much more air time and web-space to the broader general public and their interests. The BBC is distinctively right wing biased in tone, because it is controlled by heavyweight Tory Chris Patten, who should be sacked.

  17. Cochyn

    Ha!…..hard to tell if you’re naive, disingenuous or droll [or troll….]. The idea that the money of the top 10% has EVER lived in the UK is hilarious…………..if we taxed those dodgy buggers properly, we wouldn’t be in this parlous state.

  18. Paul Trembath

    Yes, the business people want to know about markets and what not; but when the business world intersects with external reality in – for example – an industrial dispute, the general public who pay the licence fees could benefit from a wider range of voices and opinions than we actually get.

  19. Jody Quinn

    Nick Cohen is no lefty, no matter what he thinks or writes books about. Still defending Iraq despite all the evidence. Idiot.

  20. Jody Quinn

    Nick Cohen is no lefty, no matter what he thinks or writes books about. Still defending Iraq despite all the evidence. Idiot.

  21. thejourneyman

    Sparky the MSM really is your favourite shop and they’ve got you hooked big time. Major corporations are controlling the whole thing, go back to the bailouts and ask why the Fed put so much money into British banks? The people are enslaved to a corrupt capitalist system that serves the corporate elites by lobbying Government, and controlling the media. You need to wake up and help ordinary people find a voice to rail against the system and develop a better society. If what we have is so good why can’t we house, feed, heat and protect everyone without judging and penalising the most vulnerable – try getting intouch with your humanity – its in there somewhere!

  22. Selohesra

    Except that those people dont stop working they just do it somewhere else and pay their taxes somewhere else – there wont be a 10% size gap for jobs to fill just a much larger gap in the tax take. Like it or nor markets are global and hedge funds and bbankers can work from outside UK

  23. Selohesra

    30% of income tax raised comes from just 1% of the earners – there must be some high earners working/living in UK that you would miss when your benefits were stopped

  24. Cochyn

    What are these references to “your benefits”. Why have you assumed that I am not a ‘high earner’ who is paying a high rate of tax?
    Sorry, must go – have a business to run and a supply chain to take care of……………

  25. Cochyn

    What are these references to “your benefits”. Why have you assumed that I am not a ‘high earner’ who is paying a high rate of tax?
    Sorry, must go – have a business to run and a supply chain to take care of……………

  26. swatnan

    Ok then, how many went on to be MPs. Most became Tory MPs like Johnson Smith and Chris Chataway. Robin Day tried the Liberals. Boris johnson, a Tory; only Tristram Hunt I can think of went Labour. The BBC is part of the Establishment. Its thanks to those that make programmes the Left actually get a look in. And ITV and Sky are Right Wing.

  27. ADe

    Since a teenager I have always believed the BBC had a right of centre bias, they see themselves as professional middle-class employees. In 2007-10 they saw Dave as a mirror of what they wished or believed they were, it has not changed. QT often has a Conservative MP, a LIb Dem MP a columnist from the Mail or Express and a right wing guest. I rarely watch now because of the Tory bias.

  28. Jonathan Marsh

    Left-Wing bias? I am proudly ‘left-wing’ and I have found the BBC unlistenably one-sided under both of our last governments. If there is some nasty populist simplistic soundbite spewing out of a ministers gob, there it is on the Today programme. With no balance.
    Whenever I hear some Tory/UKIP ‘type’ bleating on about ‘liberal left-wing bias’ on the BBC
    (or’ Buggers Broadcasting Communism’, as I believe they are known in those elevated circles!) it just further underlines how the so-called ‘centre’ has been reconfigured to a very right-wing position.

  29. Jonathan Marsh

    Ha! yes, and especially at Cardiff!

  30. Jonathan Marsh

    Why are us poor people always portrayed as a ‘Brigade’? I thought paramilitary stuff was very much the province of the right these days!

  31. Selohesra

    Brigade sense 2 – a group of people organised to perform a certain task – i think the cap fits rather well

  32. Paul Willems

    Left or Right it really makes no difference. It is the political system that is broken. It is the political system that needs to change. The revolution is coming. The revolution is here. Viva the Information Age.

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