A group of more than 70 MPs has written to the BBC director general Tony Hall in an attack on the broadcaster's Brexit coverage.
The open letter, which emerged last night, says the way the BBC has reported on Brexit could "undermine our efforts to carve out a new, global role for this country". The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Lord Hall,
RE: BBC Coverage of Brexit
Brexit is the most important political challenge facing our country. Bearing in mind the new Royal Charter’s first ‘Public Purpose’ is to impartial news, as national broadcaster the BBC has a special obligation to ensure that it reflects available evidence and the balance of argument on the subject as fairly as possible.
We believe the BBC has fallen far short of this high standard. No doubt the BBC often nurtures first-class journalism but its position depends on trust. If politicians and the public don’t view it as an impartial broker, then the future of the BBC will be in doubt.
When Sir David Clementi, the incoming Chairman of the BBC, gave evidence to the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee in January, he insisted that the Corporation’s treatment of Brexit after the referendum had walked “a good path down the middle” – despite acknowledging that fewer viewers than ever now trust its coverage. We know many Leave-voting constituents have felt their views have been unfairly represented. This phenomenon is weakening the BBC's bond with the 52 per cent who voted Leave and all who wish to make a success of the decision made.
In particular, the Corporation’s focus on ‘regretful’ Leave voters, despite there being no polling shift towards Remain since the referendum, has led some to believe it is putting its preconceptions before the facts. Meanwhile, the posturing and private opinions of EU figures are too often presented as facts, without the vital context that they are talking tough ahead of the exit negotiations.
It particularly pains us to see how so much of the economic good news we’ve had since June has been skewed by BBC coverage which seems unable to break out of pre-referendum pessimism and accept new facts. Some of the signatories of this letter shared many of the concerns about the economic impact of Brexit, but all are delighted to find forecasts of immediate economic harm were at best misplaced. So-called ‘despite Brexit’ reporting may be expected of a partisan press, but licence fee-payers have the right to expect better.
The BBC has a much larger market share than any newspaper – it runs the most-used news website in the country, on top of its television and radio coverage. This, as well as viewers’ belief in its neutrality, means that BBC bias can have a substantial effect on national debate. BBC coverage also shapes international perceptions of the UK: we fear that, by misrepresenting our country either as xenophobic or regretful of the Leave vote, the BBC will undermine our efforts to carve out a new, global role for this country.
We are therefore asking you to take steps to correct these flaws in the BBC’s coverage of our EU exit at the earliest moment.
Julian Knight MP
Nigel Adams MP, Richard Bacon MP, Steve Baker MP, Graham Brady MP, Julian Brazier MP, Henry Bellingham MP, Lady Victoria Borwick MP, Andrew Bridgen MP, Conor Burns MP, David Burrowes MP, Sir William Cash MP, James Cleverly MP, David T C Davies MP, Nadine Dorries MP, Steve Double MP, James Duddridge MP, Richard Drax MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP, Charlie Elphicke MP, Nigel Evans MP, Michael Fabricant MP, Suella Fernandes MP, Mark Francois MP, Marcus Fysh MP, Chris Green MP, Adam Holloway MP, Sir Gerald Howarth MP, Bernard Jenkin MP, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Daniel Kawczynski MP, Pauline Latham MP, Ian Liddell Grainger MP, Sir Edward Leigh MP, Jack Lopresti MP, Jonathan Lord MP, Tim Loughton MP, Craig Mackinlay MP, Kit Malthouse MP, Scott Mann MP, Jason McCartney MP, Karl McCartney MP, Nigel Mills MP, Anne Marie Morris MP, David Nuttall MP, Owen Paterson MP, Chris Philp MP, Will Quince MP, John Redwood MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Paul Scully MP, Grant Shapps MP, Henry Smith MP, Royston Smith MP, Desmond Swayne MP, Michael Tomlinson MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Andrew Turner MP, Martin Vickers MP, Theresa Villiers MP, Will Wragg MP, Lord Hamilton, Lord Callanan
Kate Hoey MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Graham Stringer MP
Nigel Dodds MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Gregory Campbell MP, Ian Paisley MP, Gavin Robinson MP, Jim Shannon MP, David Simpson MP, Sammy Wilson MP, Lord Maurice Morrow, Lord Wallace Browne
Douglas Carswell MP