Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, has said that the BBC has “on occasion” been biased, during an interview with Sky News.
The comments came as Ms Frazer was questioned by Sky News about the BBC’s Mid -Term Review, published by the government today, that recommends reform of the BBC’s impartiality and complaints system.
Ms Frazer was asked for examples of BBC bias and cited a report of a hospital attack in Gaza. Sky News’s Kay Burley put it to her that a mistake is not the same as bias, but Ms Frazer said “there is a perception amongst the public that the BBC is biased”.
Government recommendations to “boost public trust in the BBC” in the review include greater independent scrutiny of complaints handling, improving transparency for commercial media organisations, and extending Ofcom oversight over more BBC online services
The review says reforms will give audiences “greater certainty that their complaints about BBC TV, radio and on demand content – including concerns about bias – are dealt with fairly, through greater scrutiny of its complaints process, which is to be made more independent from programme makers.”
A new legally binding responsibility on the BBC Board will require it to “actively oversee the BBC’s complaints process to assure audiences that their concerns are being fairly considered.”
Ofcom oversight will be extended to parts of the BBC’s online public services, including the BBC News website, “to enable Ofcom to hold the BBC to account in a more robust way.”
Ofcom will also be given a new legally binding responsibility to review more of the BBC’s complaints decisions, “meaning audiences can have greater confidence that their complaints have been handled fairly.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “The Government wants to see a strong, independent BBC that can thrive in the years to come as a major contributor to the nation’s successful creative industries.
“In a rapidly changing media landscape the BBC needs to adapt or risk losing the trust of the audiences it relies on. Following constructive conservations with the BBC and Ofcom, we have recommended reforms that I believe will improve accountability while boosting public confidence in the BBC’s ability to be impartial and respond to concerns raised by licence fee payers.
“These changes will better set up the BBC to ask difficult questions of itself, and make sure Ofcom can continue to hold the broadcaster to account. We all rely on the BBC being the best it can be and this review will help ensure that is what the British public gets.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “The Mid-Term Review was designed to look at the BBC’s governance and regulation. We’re pleased the Government’s findings reflect that overall these are working well.
“With regard to the BBC’s impartiality, no other organisation takes its commitment to impartiality more seriously. We have well-established and detailed plans to sustain and further improve standards. We know this matters to audiences and the BBC continues to be the number one source for trusted news, with the highest scores for impartiality and accuracy.
“During discussions over the Mid-Term Review, we proposed and implemented a number of reforms, including strengthening our complaints procedures, which now form part of the conclusions. We are pleased the Government has fully taken our proposals onboard. We remain committed to continuous improvement to ensure we deliver for all licence fee payers.
“The BBC is operationally and editorially independent and we will continue to engage constructively with Government, and our regulator Ofcom, over the second half of this Charter and as we look ahead to a new Charter in 2028.”
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