BBC under fire for 'left-wing bias'

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THE BBC’s output does not give equal prominence to "mainstream" right-wing commentators, a senior Conservative claimed yesterday.

Bernard Jenkin, the shadow defence secretary, said the corporation’s concept of centre ground was further to the left of where many perceive it.

A BBC spokesman rejected his claims, however, insisting it tried to reflect "all shades of political opinion".

Mr Jenkin’s allegations follow an announcement by Conservatives last week that they are to make a formal complaint to the BBC about its coverage of their local elections performance, claiming the corporation down-played the extent of the party’s success.

Speaking to GMTV yesterday, Mr Jenkin said: "When you talk to Conservatives who work in the corporation, they say there is an institutional bias, but it’s very subtle, it’s not even a conscious bias."

He added: "Just look at the fact that the BBC recruits entirely from advertisements in the Guardian. Obviously, media jobs are advertised in the Guardian, but it says something about where the centre of gravity in the BBC is."

Mr Jenkin continued: "Of course, it is a nationalised industry. It feels threatened by all the change that has taken place around it, in terms of the growth of commercial broadcasting, the contractualisation of jobs. I think there is a cultural disaffinity with free markets, freedom. It sticks to what it thinks is the centre ground and the centre ground in its mind is rather to the left of where most people in the country regard the centre ground."

He argued: "They put up any number of left-wing commentators on [BBC Radio 4’s] Thought for the Day. Yes, there will be some token right-wingers, but they will be minority sector right-wingers. They won’t be mainstream right-wingers."

Claiming that bias "creeps in" to the BBC’s output, he added: "I think it is something very deeply ingrained. They are not free of this and if they are not conscious of it then they are even more a prisoner of it than they imagine."

However, the BBC spokesman said: "This is not an argument about where the centre ground lies, it is the job of the BBC to reflect all shades of political opinion and we try to do this in all areas of output.

"Mr Jenkin makes some interesting points but he isn’t specific about who he thinks should be heard more often on the BBC. We are always interested to hear ideas on who might have contributions to make on political and wider issues."

He added: "Mr Jenkin is not quite right to say that the BBC recruits entirely from advertisements in the Guardian; less than a third of the BBC’s recruitment spend on advertising is placed with the Guardian.

"It is worth noting that the paper’s media section is habitually used by most of the main broadcasters and indeed the Tory Party has advertised for its Press Office in the paper."