BBC presenter hits out at left-wing bias claim

By Ian Dunt

A respected BBC presenter has hit out at claims that the BBC had a “massive” left-wing bias during the Thatcher years.

Director general Mark Thompson made the original comment in a New Statesman interview recently, producing anger among some BBC staff.

Roger Bolton, of Radio 4 programme Feedback, said he had been irritated by the comments in a letter to in-house magazine Ariel.

“Perhaps he believes my fellow programme editors of that time like Chris Capron, George Carey, Ron Neil, Peter Ibbotson and Hugh Williams were lefties?” Mr Bolton said.

“In which case he must be possessed of remarkable insight since even today I don’t know what their political leanings were or are.

“How about the main presenters then, Robin Day, David Dimbleby, John Tusa, Peter Snow, Frank Bough, Sue Lawley. Card-carrying Commies? I don’t think so.

“What about the rows with the Thatcher government? Ah the rows! Well I was involved in quite a few of them and they weren’t about whether we were pro or anti Mrs Thatcher; they were about whether we should report as honestly and openly as we could about the situation in Northern Ireland or the Falklands War.”

Mr Bolton admitted that there was a tendency for BBC staff to be socially liberal and secular, although they generally populated the middle political ground.

“Of course everyone has views,” he wrote.

“It is undeniable that most editorial staff were, and probably are, of a liberal inclination when it comes to social issues, and that they cluster around the middle ground of the political spectrum. I would also suggest they are predominantly secular as well. We all have biases, the crucial thing is to be aware of them.

“However it is something else entirely to suggest that we flawed creatures made predominantly leftwing programmes. When he worked for me, Mark used to do his research. In this case he clearly has not.”

Right wing figures have complained of left-wing bias at the corporation for years, and most international conflicts see the BBC attacked by both sides.