Chris Grayling is right, the BBC is biased. But not in the way he thinks

Another day, another baseless accusation of left-wing bias at the BBC.

Another day, another baseless accusation of left-wing bias is levelled at the BBC, this time by Conservative Cabinet minister Chris Grayling.

In an interview with The House Magazine, Grayling has accused the BBC of not acting in a way that is “right and proper for a public broadcaster” because its workforce is dominated by a “left-leaning, metropolitan group of people who are disproportionately represented there”.

He added that “they’ve been unbalanced in the debate over the years about immigration, about Europe. And I think they’ve wised up to that.”

Grayling is just the latest right-winger to accuse the corporation of harbouring a latent left-wing bias. Like a game of Whac-A-Mole, as soon as you’ve rebutted one lot of this tripe some one else comes along spouting it. Considering the extent to which the US media has been cowed by the accusation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that conservatives this side of the Atlantic have adopted the tactic too.

Just as with Whac-A-Mole, however, it’s important to bash the ‘bias’ accusation with the hammer when it rears its head – the hammer being reason and evidence (and no, I’m not advocating hitting Chris Grayling on the head).

There isn’t a “left-wing bias” at the BBC. In fact, there is a degree of evidence suggesting bias of a quite different sort.

In August 2013, academics at Cardiff University investigated political bias at the BBC. They looked at news coverage from both 2007 and 2012 in order to analyse coverage under both the previous Labour government and the coalition.

Far from left-wing bias, researchers found a clear bias in favour of 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.”

This will sound familiar to anyone who has been watching the BBC’s coverage of the tube strike – not to mention the 50p tax proposal announced by Labour a few weeks back, where just about every “captain of industry” was trotted out to doom-monger about the end of capitalism.

Overall I suspect the BBC is actually quite balanced. If it wasn’t, it’s unlikely there would be so many on both left and right ready to deplore its ‘bias’.

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