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Who will watch for BBC bias in the EU referendum campaign?

26 February 2016

7:00 AM

26 February 2016

7:00 AM

It is wearisome work, but I hope the ‘leave’ campaign is carefully monitoring the BBC’s coverage of the referendum. On Monday, the first full weekday since Mr Cameron’s ‘legally binding’ deal, I listened to the Today programme for more than two hours. I heard six speakers for ‘remain’ and two (John Mills and Nigel Lawson) for ‘leave’.

In this I am not including any of the BBC interviewers themselves, though my hunch, based solely on the way they ask questions, is that all of them, with the possible exception of John Humphrys, are for ‘remain’. The guests explicitly in favour of ‘remain’ were Carolyn Fairbairn, Sir Mike Rake, Stanley Johnson and Michael Fallon. Jonathan Portes, who is always presented by the BBC as a neutral expert, was actually pushing the EU cause.


It is true that my sixth speaker, ‘John Bell of the Iona Community’, never mentioned the EU at all, but his Thought for the Day, like almost all his contributions to that curious slot, was about how ghastly the British are compared with everyone else, which is an underlying Euro-enthusiast dogma.

Actually, I have serious doubts as to whether ‘John Bell of the Iona Community’ exists. My theory is that he has been invented by a rogue satirist — a sort of Sacha Baron Cohen — within the corporation to embody racist English stereotypes of dour, chippy Scotsmen whose main religious belief is that all Tories will go to Hell.

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