5,000 signatures reached
To: Tony Hall, Director General; Nick Robinson, Political Editor; Sue Inglish, Head of Political Programmes; Francesca Unsworth, Deputy Director of News and Current Affairs; and James Harding, Director of News and Current Affairs
BBC Bias in Election Reporting
Dear BBC, we believe the BBC should URGENTLY establish processes that ensure that election reporting is fair, unbiased and not sensationalist and ensure those processes are followed so that reporting fairly reflects the state of polling and voting in the country. Reporting should not focus on personal factors such as personal appearance or private behaviour of candidates or parties where there is no defensible public interest in doing so. Processes established should be open and auditable by external parties as to whether they have been followed or not. Where processes affecting fairness of reporting already exist action should be taken to establish why they were not followed or had no impact on reporting of the recent European and UK Local Council Elections.
Further, we request BBC provide figures for media time allocated across all media to the different party leaders in respect of the recent elections and should this turn out to have been disproportionately allocated we request explanation of why and establishment of process to ensure that fair allocation is provided in future.
Why is this important?
In the recent European and UK Local Council elections the BBC reporting showed extreme bias in favour of one particular extreme right wing single issue party, the UK Independence Party. While the Conservatives lost both seats and councils, Labour gained both but that was eclipsed in the reporting by a focus on modest gains by this extreme party. For example evidence we refer to the UK Radio 4 News broadcast that was transmitted at midnight on 23/24th May 2014. Figures for results from the BBC news website at 10.53 AM on 24th May were
lab 82 +6 2101 +338
con 41 -11 1359 -231
ld 6 -2 427 -307
ukip 0 0 163 +161
grn 0 0 36 +16
oth 0 0 125 +23
noc 31 +7 N/A N/A
The figures show clearly substantial seats and gains for Labour (2101, +338) and very much more modest seats and gains for UKIP (161, +161) yet all of the focus of the broadcast item was on UKIP gains. Additionally, whilst the figures are shown on the news website in a fair way much of the reporting of them on there also focuses on the UKIP gains. This is not proportionate and fair. Since such reporting is likely to influence the way people vote in future elections this is a very serious matter.
We give this as example evidence not as sum-total of our complaint. In fact much of the broadcasting around this election on radio and on television has provided a disproportionate focus on UKIP which is not justified by the level of support in the country for that party. This itself distorts the process and can have consequences for the way people vote. As a publicly funded broadcaster, for which payment of a license fee is mandatory for complete access to services, there is an onus on the BBC to report election processes fairly and in ways that minimize the impact of that reporting on how people vote. It is our belief that the BBC have failed in this goal this time. Elections are serious matters and the BBC should take them seriously and act to minimize unfairness and bigotry.