BBC election anchor defends corporation over accusations of bias

Ashley Cowburn

BBC’s election anchor has defend the corporation over accusations of bias from both the left and the right amid bitter recriminations over coverage of the campaign.

Huw Edwards, who fronted the BBC’s election night coverage for the first time last week, admitted that mistakes are sometimes made, “which we deeply regret”.

His remarks in a blog post on Linkedin came before Andy McDonald, the shadow transport minister, claimed the organisation was partly responsible for Labour’s worst election defeat in the post-war period.

Mr McDonald said Jeremy Corbyn, who has announced he will formally resign as Labour leader in the new year, had been “vilified” and “much maligned”.

No 10 has also threatened to pull senior ministers from the BBC’s flagship morning radio programme and is reviewing whether to decriminalise non-payment of the £154 licence fee for watching television.

But Mr Edwards criticised the “real poison of the social media age” and a refusal to “entertain an alternative point of view” as unhealthy and profoundly damaging.

Defending his colleagues, he wrote: “You are supported by the best news team in the world, and you are expected to deliver a results programme that upholds the BBC’s reputation for quality and fairness.

“But you’re doing so in a world where toxic cynicism and accusations of bias (from all sides) are adding to the pressures on the entire team.

“I should say a few things about notions of ‘bias’ and the attacks (from both left and right) on journalists who are trying their best to provide a duly impartial service. This clearly does not apply to many of those hacks working in parts of the press and online, where regulation is risibly weak and blatant propaganda can be passed off as ‘news’.”

Mr Edwards, who has covered every election since 1987, continued: “We are all committed to providing a fair service, but we sometimes make mistakes, which we deeply regret.

“The most curious notion of all (prompted with great energy by the BBC’s critics on both left and right) is that these mistakes are often ‘deliberate’, carefully planned to undermine one party and boost another.”

His comments came as former BBC chairman Lord Grade also criticised broadcasters for their response to politicians who turned down appearances or interviews.

Andrew Neil was wrong to broadcast a monologue after Boris Johnson snubbed his programme and Channel 4 should not have replaced the Prime Minister with an ice sculpture when he refused to take part in a debate, the Conservative peer said.

“The issue here is impartiality, and broadcasters have a statutory duty to respect that. It is not their job to use the airwaves to cajole and try to coerce politicians into interviews or to shame them publicly if they exercise their right to refuse,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.

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