Ministers launch probe into the BBC’s ‘Islingtonian Left-wing bias’ as they review the broadcaster’s compliance with ‘impartiality requirements’
Ministers have opened up a fresh front with the BBC over accusations of its editorial bias by launching a major review focused on its compliance with ‘impartiality requirements’.
A mid-term review being announced later this week is expected to reignite tensions between the Government and the Corporation over claims that its output is too skewed towards a Left-wing, so-called ‘Islingtonian’ world view.
It comes against the backdrop of threats by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to scrap the £159-a-year licence fee when the current Royal charter comes to an end in 2027.
Ms Dorries said that the current model was ‘completely outdated’ and Ministers would be ‘looking very seriously about how we fund the BBC’, with decisions taken ‘well ahead’ of the Corporation’s charter renewal in 2027
The review, held at the mid-point of the ten-year charter, is also expected to examine whether the BBC abuses its dominant market position to the detriment of commercial rivals.
Government sources said the review would ‘assess how effectively the governance and regulation arrangements of the BBC are performing at the halfway point of the BBC charter’.
The review is also expected to examine whether the communications regulator Ofcom is ‘holding the BBC to account’ by assessing ‘the effectiveness of the BBC’s governance mechanisms… in ensuring compliance with its editorial standards including impartiality requirements’.
A White Paper published last month declared that the Government intended to put in place a new funding model for the broadcaster when the £3.2 billion-a-year licence fee deal expires in five years’ time, as part of plans to make the British broadcasting system ‘fit for the streaming age’.
Government sources said the review would ‘assess how effectively the governance and regulation arrangements of the BBC are performing at the halfway point of the BBC charter’
Ms Dorries said that the current model was ‘completely outdated’ and Ministers would be ‘looking very seriously about how we fund the BBC’, with decisions taken ‘well ahead’ of the Corporation’s charter renewal in 2027.
She has frozen the fee at £159 for the next two years, after which it will increase by roughly ten per cent over the following four years.
The spiralling inflation rate – currently nine per cent – means that the Corporation will be forced to find savings of more than £1 billion over the next five years.
Possible alternatives to the licence fee include some form of voluntary Netflix-style subscription model, allowing the BBC to have advertising, imposing a broadband levy, linking the charge to council tax or a hybrid combination of different ideas.
Ms Dorries has previously criticised the BBC’s approach as ‘elitist’ and ‘snobbish’ and has accused it of being dominated by anti-Brexit, Left-wing staff, with too many ‘dull, boring, male and ageing wig-wearing men’ presenting programmes.
Tensions grew further during the Partygate rows about alleged breaches of lockdown rules in Downing Street, which No 10 said was being given excessive airtime by the BBC.
During the height of the coverage, one senior Government figure said that it ‘felt like the BBC isn’t going to stop until Boris has gone’.
A Government source said: ‘The review will examine closely the way the BBC handles complaints through its BBC First system, and Ofcom’s framework for assessing BBC complaints as part of ensuring effective oversight of the BBC and its relationship with licence fee payers.
‘The review will also consider the BBC’s market impact on commercial radio and local news sectors.’
The review is expected to take about 12 months to complete.