Last week, The Sun ran an article titled ‘LEFTIE BBC’ in which the tabloid made the claim that the corporation was showing evidence of political bias towards the left-wing. It’s an accusation often thrown around by the likes of the Daily Mail and Britain First, so it seems only natural that The Sun would want in on the act.
The paper based its claim on the amount of money that the Beeb had spent on The Guardian newspaper (the left-wing scourge of the right-leaning papers) in 2016-17, figures it had obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
‘BBC accused of left-wing bias after spending £139,260 on copies of The Guardian’ said the sub-header. Interestingly, there were no details on who exactly was accusing the BBC of left-wing bias, other than The Sun itself.
Presumably nobody was, because beneath the finger-pointing headlines sat a complete and utter non-story.
Yes, the BBC spent £139k on 69,212 copies of The Guardian. But the FOI request also revealed that it spent £96,151 on 70,605 copies of The Times, £98,029 on 65,192 copies of the Daily Telegraph and even £28,661 on 56,317 copies of The Sun – the last of which is a shocking waste of license-payers’ money!
So although the BBC spent more money on The Guardian than any other individual paper, it spent more money and bought far more copies of right-leaning papers than left-leaning ones. The reason why the bill for The Guardian was higher is because it’s a more expensive paper.
The papers were purchased daily, according to the BBC, as ‘journalists were expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of stories on any given day.’
So why is The Sun trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes with this piece of journalistic tat? It seems that the BBC has become caught up in a tug of war between left and right in recent times, with both sides desperate to label it as a biased institution. On one side we have the right-wing tabloids accusing the broadcaster of left-wing bias, on the other side we have the likes of the Canary and Momentum screaming right-wing bias.
In truth, if the BBC is to be classed as sitting anywhere on the political spectrum, it’s in a fairly centrist position. Its news coverage is arguably slightly to the right of centre while its cultural output is slightly more left-leaning. Overall, it takes a less critical stance on government behaviour (e.g. austerity measures or foreign military interventions) than hard-hitting left-leaning publications such as the New Statesman, but it is also responsible for current affairs programmes, satire and artistic output that is more critical and left-of-centre.
The reality is that the BBC is a very diverse institution with many different departments and it’s pretty much impossible to pin it down and label it as one thing or the other. Yes, you can isolate individual stories or pieces of work and find evidence of bias, but to say that the corporation as a whole is deliberately leaning one way or the other politically is to misrepresent it. Both sides are guilty of repeatedly doing this by cherry-picking or, as The Sun has done here, distorting the facts.
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