BBC Reviewing Programs for Bias

Kevin McCandless | Correspondent | Friday, October 27, 2006

BBC Reviewing Programs for Bias

London ( - Amid continuing fallout here over allegations of liberal bias at the British Broadcasting Corporation, a senior executive at the public broadcaster has lashed out at the press for making "mischief."

With critics having complained for years that the BBC is left-leaning and anti-American, the BBC has embarked on a lengthy "impartiality review" of its news programs.

Accounts of a seminar held last month in London and involving top BBC reporters and high-profile figures were leaked to the British press this week.

Washington correspondent Justin Webb was quoted as saying that the BBC constantly treated America with "scorn and derision" and that he had to go to senior management to fight against this bias.

The BBC "diversity czar" Mary Fitzpatrick reportedly said during the seminar that she was fine with Muslim newsreaders being veiled. Many in the group admitted concerns about offending Islamic sensibilities.

In addition, seminar attendees allegedly agreed that it would be acceptable to throw a Bible in the trash as part of a comedy sketch, but not the Koran, and that they would line up for an interview with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The BBC press office has made no official comment on these reports, but in a brief article on the broadcaster's website, News Director Helen Boaden wrote that reports of the seminar had been "distorted."

She said that the discussions held had been hypothetical, designed to produce debate and ideas, and that they did not represent BBC policy.

The broadcaster was not a liberal "chattering class club" as frequently depicted by the London tabloids, Boaden wrote.

"It's a shame that the newspapers have made mischief with the seminar," Boaden said. "But we won't let this small storm put us off trying to get impartiality right."

Marc Landers, a Scotland-based American who monitors the BBC for bias, said he has seen the broadcaster poison the atmosphere over the years with its anti-Western, anti-American and pro-Islamist reporting.

Since Landers first came to Britain in the 1970s, he had witnessed it turn countless British friends and acquaintances against the U.S., he told Cybercast News Service.

On his website, USS Neverdock, Landers has spent the last several years documenting instances of BBC bias.

From the time a reporter in the Middle East cried at learning of the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat to using anti-war activists as its sources on stories about Iraq, Landers said the BBC was helping tear down Western values.

"I'm not going overboard here," he said. "I think they're a menace to Western society."

Prominent media analyst David Keighley said he had never observed a deliberate or systematic pattern of distortion on the part of the BBC.

However, he said that in studying the news output of the BBC since 1999, it often reflected the "liberal left-wing" views of most of its reporters.

During the general election last year, his study showed that presenters working for a flagship BBC news program questioned Conservative Party candidates much more harshly than they did candidates from the Labor Party.

In addition, liberal lawmakers were given considerably more air time to present their views than conservative ones.

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