Thompson: BBC had ‘massive’ left-wing bias

by Peter Wozniak

The BBC used to be guilty of political bias towards the left, but has entered a new era of impartiality according to its director general, Mark Thompson.

Mr Thompson, in an interview with the New Statesman, argued that the corporation had changed dramatically, and dismissed the attacks from the right, particularly from the Daily Mail, about its alleged left-wing agenda.

He said: “In the BBC I joined 30 years ago, there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people’s personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left. The organisation did struggle then with impartiality.

“Now it is a completely different generation. There is much less overt tribalism among the young journalists who work for the BBC. It is like the New Statesman, which used to be various shades of soft and hard left and is now more technocratic. We’re like that, too.”

He also countered that the BBC had suffered criticism of partiality from the left as well as the right. The refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal in 2009 which was famously challenged on air by Tony Benn is held up as an example.

Mr Thompson concluded: “The BBC is not a campaigning organisation and can’t be, and actually the truth is that sometimes our dispassionate flavour of broadcasting frustrates people who have got very, very strong views, because they want more red meat. Often that plays as bias.

“This is a post-Hutton change in the organisation. Impartiality is going up and up the agenda.”

The BBC’s unique status among broadcasters has renewed political relevance following the general election as the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has questioned the efficiency of the corporation and as the government looks for savings in every area of public spending.

Negotiations about the future of the BBC’s funding are underway.

The corporation has repeatedly suffered accusations of partiality towards the left throughout its history, and is being challenged in the broadcasting marketplace by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky.
The heads of both organisations used the prominent MacTaggart lectures of this and last year to level criticism at each other.