As the BBC’s coverage of the general election gathers pace, the latest News-watch survey shows that reporting of European Union affairs by the Corporation continues to be deeply inadequate and biased.
In March, the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee – which had heard evidence from News-watch as well as senior figures from the BBC – strongly attacked the BBC’s EU-related output. It said that Charter requirements to provide audiences with balanced and wide-ranging coverage of EU affairs were not being met, and that, especially, eurosceptic perspectives were not being properly reflected.
In its latest survey, independent monitoring organisation News-watch monitored four BBC programmes for an eight-week period between Monday 27 October and Saturday 21 December 2014. The programmes were: The World at One and PM on BBC Radio 4, BBC1’s News at Ten, and BBC2’s Newsnight. This equated to approximately 131 hours of broadcasting. This analysis, based on complete analysis of a range of flagship news programmes makes the following findings:
- Coverage of the issues surrounding withdrawal was both minimal and inadequate.
- The vast bulk of news about Conservative handling of EU affairs was through the lens of party splits, which, it was emphasised by BBC correspondents, had been raging since Maastricht. There was disproportionate effort to cover these divisions, exaggeration of the scale of the problem and a corresponding failure to scrutinise policies; rows took precedence over informing audiences about the bread and butter issues of EU membership.
- There was relatively little analysis of Labour policies towards the EU. Party members were afforded regular platforms to attack Conservative and Ukip policies, but their own controversial approach towards limitation of immigration or the potential threat posed by Ukip was seldom featured or analysed. Members of the party who are strongly eurosceptic occasionally were asked for comment, but their quotes were too brief to give a true indication of the debate within the party about EU membership
- The main theme of coverage of Ukip continued to be (as has been noted in earlier News-watch reports) that both individually and as a party, it was inept, confused and potentially both venal and racist. There was a heavy focus on its shortcomings, but very little coverage or analysis of key issues such as withdrawal and the limitations of the EU. And the main editorial reaction to Ukip’s victory at Rochester was to ask Conservative MP Phillip Davies if he would not defect to Ukip.
- Another problem was that, while it was frequently said that the EU opposed reform of matters such as the Free Movement of Peoples Directive – and platforms were often given to EU figures to say that – there was no editorial effort to scrutinise why such policies could not be changed or reformed.
The full report is available to read or download using the link below.