Serious doubts raised about BBC’s impartiality during Brexit referendum campaign

Serious doubts have been raised about the BBC’s impartiality during the Brexit referendum campaign.

Former Business Editor Robert Peston, who spent nine years with the public broadcaster before switching to ITV in 2015, said the national broadcaster failed to deliver impartial and balanced journalism in its coverage of the referendum.

It comes after new figures leaked by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder show that there has never been a pro-EU MEP on Question Time.

Some 33 UKIP MEPs made appearances on the politics show between January 2013 and February 2018 out of a total of 35 members in all.

The other two were anti-EU Conservative MEPs, with no other political parties receiving airtime.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival Peston laughed at questions over whether the BBC could be blamed for Brexit, saying the role of the journalist was to work out which of two contradictory arguments “is likely to be the closer to the truth”.

He went on to say: “I love the BBC but I did feel that during the Brexit campaign they slightly got confused about what impartial journalism meant.

“The problem with the BBC was during the campaign it put people on with diametrically-opposed views.

“It did not give any help in assessing which one was the loony and which one was the genius.

“I do think that they went through a period of just not being confident enough. Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people, one of whom says ‘the world is flat’ and the other says ‘the earth is round’.

“That is not balanced, impartial journalism.”

In the weeks leading up to the referendum in June 2016, Vote Leave claimed that ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme was biased towards the Remain campaign. The complaint was rejected by Ofcom.

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