In Brief

Was BBC biased against Jeremy Corbyn during the election campaign?

Shadow transport secretary says Labour leader was ‘demonised and vilified’ by broadcasters

The debate over media impartiality has intensified after the shadow transport secretary accused the BBC and other broadcasters of allowing Jeremy Corbyn to be “demonised and vilified” during the general election campaign.

Andy McDonald said the behaviour of the BBC should make people “worry about our democratic processes” adding that he had “never in my lifetime known any single individual so demonised and vilified, so grotesquely and so unfairly” as Corbyn was.

“We know we’ve got the forces of the establishment, the elite, against us,” he told BBC Five Live, adding that the Labour leader had been “vilified as an anti-Semite” and compared to Stalin.

“We’ve always had the print media, which is page after page after page of press barons absolutely destroying and vilifying Labour leaders from time immemorial,” he said.

“What’s changed in this election is the way the broadcast media have joined in with that battle. And you know that we have a catalogue of complaints against our public service broadcaster, our precious BBC, which I’m afraid has been brought into the fray.”

Last week, Corbyn also hit out at media bias, saying: “I've received more personal abuse than any other leader has ever received by a great deal of the media” and adding that he had been “misrepresented”.

McDonald’s outburst came hours after The Guardian reported that Downing Street was considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, while boycotting Radio 4’s Today programme over the broadcaster’s supposed anti-Tory bias.

Downing Street said Andrew Neil’s on-air monologue slamming Johnson for his refusal to be interviewed, and the BBC’s “extensive coverage” of a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on a hospital floor showed there was anti-Tory bias at the corporation.

Leading figures at the BBC have hit back at accusations from both sides. Huw Edwards, the veteran who anchored the corporation’s election night coverage, criticised “toxic cynicism and accusations of bias from all sides”.

In a blog post, he wrote: “You realise yet again that the real purpose of many of the attacks is to undermine trust in institutions which have been sources of stability over many decades. The apparent purpose, in short, is to cause chaos and confusion.”

Last week, the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, sent an email to staff saying: “In a frenetic campaign where we’ve produced hundreds of hours of output, of course we’ve made the odd mistake and we’ve held up our hands to them. 

“Editors are making tough calls every minute of the day. But I don’t accept the view of those critics who jump on a handful of examples to suggest we’re somehow biased one way or the other.”

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