BBC defends Brexit bias accusations

Lynsey Barber
Follow Lynsey
Director of news James Harding has addressed bias claims (Source: Getty)

The BBC has defended itself against claims that it was bias in its coverage of Brexit.

The broadcaster's head of news James Harding has hit back at claims by the Leave camp that post-referendum coverage has been "gloomy or hysterical" while Remainers have accused it of being too impartial.

"The BBC’s coverage of the EU referendum was highly regarded by the critics who matter most to us: the public. Our audience research shows that the BBC was the most trusted reporter of the referendum," he said, hitting back in an op-ed for the Guardian.

Read more: Bad news: People don't want to watch Bake Off without Mary Berry

He continued: "In fact, our scores for trust rose as the campaign progressed. Complaints were low. And more than 90 per cent of people in the UK came to the BBC during the campaign for the news."

However, he also hit out at both political parties and the way they engaged with the media.

"Labour chose to operate separately from Stronger In. Downing Street refused to send out Conservative cabinet ministers to rebut arguments made by prominent Tory Leavers live on air, because they insisted that “blue on blue” arguments would turn the national debate into a Westminster soap opera," he said.

But, he said Auntie had learned its lessons from accusations over its coverage of climate change by the scientific community, and that it was "keenly aware of the risk" of false balance "in which fanciful claims got the same billing as serious insights".

Read more: See the stars from the new flats at BBC's Television Centre

Welsh MP David Davies is the latest to accuse the BBC of bias over the referendum to decide the fate of Britain in Europe, claiming the public institution had an anti-Brexit tone and labelling it an "absolute disgrace".

But Harding hit back, concluding: "The BBC’s job is not to preside over the democratic process – it is to report, to host the argument and to interrogate the participants. We aim to inform our audiences, not seek the approval of politicians or pundits. That is what we sought to do in this difficult and contentious contests. And it is what we continue to do."