Despite perennial complaints, it retains the public’s trustby Nicholas Earl / June 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
It wouldn’t be a general election without allegations of BBC bias, just like it wouldn’t be the festive season without a Channel 4 showing of The Muppet Christmas Carol. In both cases, the experience turns out to be rather tiresome for those of us who aren’t obsessed with the particular subject.
On 30th May, the first Question Time debate between the party leaders—and Amber Rudd—saw members of the audience boo criticism of Jeremy Corbyn and laugh at Rudd’s plea to “judge us on our record.” The BBC claimed that the studio audience was “representative of the country as a whole” but the Conservatives made an official complaint.
Yet left-wingers aren’t happy either. BBC1 was broadcasting the One Love Manchester benefit concert on 4th June when Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit came on screen. The singer was wearing a T-shirt that was blurred out; it emerged it had the word “Corbyn” written on it in red, above a Nike-style swoosh. Supporters of the Labour leader responded predictably with a Twitter storm, accusing the BBC of censorship.
The BBC issued a statement: “Our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial and the UK is currently in an election period. In order to include Clean Bandit’s message in a montage of well-wishing clips, the T-shirt was blurred.” But those who hold the strongest party affiliations are sceptical of the organisation’s commitment to impartiality.
Despite all this, the BBC is the most trusted media organisation in the UK. According to a new ICM survey of over 2,000 Britons, 45 per cent trust the BBC as a reliable source for general election news, compared to only 27 per cent who trust the daily newspapers. A majority of the public were worried about the problem of fake news, but nearly one in three people felt this to be the responsibility of social media companies. Only 18 per cent thought that the BBC needed to do more in this area.
A more shocking revelation from the survey is that 52 per cent of British adults (and 63 per cent of over 65s) are struggling to tell the difference between real and fake news. A quarter of those surveyed have seen fake news about the general election, rising to 43 per cent among the 18-24 demographic. It remains to be seen if fake news can affect the outcome of the UK election, as it is widely believed to have done in the United States.