Huw Edwards defends BBC after accusations of bias in election campaign coverage

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Huw Edwards has hit back at suggestions of BBC bias during coverage of the General Election campaign.

The broadcaster was criticised by both the Left and the Right in the weeks before the poll.

Edwards, 58, who led the BBC’s coverage on the night after taking over from David Dimbleby, criticised “toxic cynicism and accusations of bias (from all sides)”.

He wrote on LinkedIn: “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.”

He said colleagues had to resist “relentlessly vitriolic attacks” and “the sometimes appalling levels of pressure from political parties and their puppets in parts of the press and elsewhere”.

Edwards, who has covered every general election since 1987, said: “We sometimes make mistakes which we deeply regret.”

But the News At Ten presenter denied “the most curious notion of all (promoted with great energy by the BBC’s critics on both left and right) … that these mistakes are often ‘deliberate’, carefully planned to undermine one party and boost another.”

Lord Grade (Peter Byrne/PA)

His comments came as former BBC chairman Lord Grade criticised broadcasters for their response to politicians who turn 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.

The Prime Minister is reported to be looking into consulting on whether people who do not pay the £154.50 licence fee for watching television or BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service should be prosecuted.