A viral video that accuses the BBC of bias in their reporting on U.K. politics continues to gain traction on social media. The U.K.’s primary public broadcaster was slammed in a video posted by journalist Peter Stefanovic in March. It was watched by 1.3 million viewers within 48 hours and continues to be watched by thousands.
In it, the enigmatic Stefanovic tears into the BBC’s Political Editor’s assessment of the actions of the U.K.’s Chancellor, Philip Hammond. His enjoyment of the attention his post got was clear in the post’s revised headline.
“If the BBC won’t say it, I will!”
This video, which first trended in mid-March, is still finding traction on social media. While it may not have received much mainstream media attention, the issues it raises may well prove pivotal in understanding the BBC’s potential impact on the upcoming U.K. election.
Who’s Behind The Viral Video?
Peter Stefanovic calls himself a “no bullshit” independent journalist, high-profile lawyer, campaigner, and political and social commentator on his own website. He has been a strong supporter of the NHS, junior doctors, social justice and the Labour Party.
He often uses blogging and videos to debunk “political deceit” and has a following on Facebook of over 50,000 with a weekly post reach that he claims is up to 3 million. But of all his posts, this debunking of BBC bias has to be his most significant.
What Does The Video Claim The BBC Is Biased About?
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reported in mid-March that Hammond had “given a huge, screeching, giant U-turn” after dropping his plans to impose National Insurance increases on self-employed individuals. A controversial part of the Government’s recent budget, Stefanovic rightly pointed out that this plan had broken one of the Conservative manifesto’s key promises.
In the video, the BBC was accused of bias by Stefanovic over its reporting of the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that followed the announcement. Kuenssberg focussed on the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, claiming he had “failed to land any decent blows” on Prime Minister Theresa May. In her BBC report, she went on to say that May was “all smiles at the end” of PMQs and that this reflected poorly on Corbyn’s ability to form a meaningful opposition to the Government.
Stefanovic was quick to counter these statements in his response video, going on to directly accuse the BBC of bias. Claiming that the Government had to scrap their budget plan after being “caught out on a lie,” Stefanovic accused the BBC and mainstream media more widely of failing to accurately report the facts.
“The biased mainstream media tries to bury it by turning it into a story about Jeremy Corbyn.”
He continued his attack on media bias.
“This attack on the leader of the opposition comes within days of the mainstream media’s criticism of Labour’s tax and spending plans and within a week of it putting out a fake news story on the Labour leader’s tax return.”
Stefanovic then attempted to right the bias he aimed at the BBC and other news outlets by getting “the real story straight.”
“Tories break manifesto pledge. Tories lie about breaking manifesto pledge. Tories are caught out on lie and forced to make dramatic U-turn. It’s not rocket science.”
After correcting more unspecified reporting errors on Labour’s historical spending while the party was in government, he told the BBC “those are the facts you should be reporting BBC 1” before continuing to criticize the current Government.
At the end of the video, Stefanovic focussed his attack on the BBC and the Conservative Party, calling on the public to question why, as he claims, the BBC shows bias in its political reporting.
“We need to start asking ourselves why the establishment and a biased right-wing media is trying so hard to bring down the leader of the opposition.”
When Is Bias Acceptable?
To say that Stefanovic’s video is unbiased would be to falsely report the facts. Stefanovic is unashamed in his bias towards the Labour Party across all his media and social media posts. In this video, he even finished his tirade against the BBC with a series of celebratory statements about the Labour leader and a call to support him.
“That’s a man worth fighting for.”
While this video is thus not an impartial or unbiased perspective on the political situation, it also does not claim to be. And from this standpoint it manages to raise a number of important points. This may be why, over a month after it was first broadcast, it continues to be watched.
The BBC tells its viewers that its impartiality “is the core of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences.” Its own charter requires the BBC’s reporters to “ensure all controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality” and goes on to specifically name political matters within this remit.
As such, an accusation of bias against the BBC is a serious breach of its own promise to its viewers, which then brings into question the role we give such a media outlet in helping us form opinions about important events, such as the upcoming U.K. election.
Not The First Accusation Of Bias Against The BBC
Should this accusation stick, it would add to a number of calls of bias against the broadcaster and Laura Kuenssberg in particular.
Back in January, the BBC Trust found Kuenssberg’s report on Corbyn’s response to a shoot-to-kill policy “breached accuracy and impartiality rules,” according to The Telegraph. The newspaper also reported that the BBC had been subject to online abuse over the reporter’s apparent bias.
With the U.K. election now only weeks away, Stefanovic’s accusation of bias against the BBC is thus a serious one. Yet with so little reporting of this in the mainstream media, and no action taken by the BBC against Kuenssberg, it seems that the BBC has failed to take his accusations seriously.
As one of the main sources of news for the U.K. public through television, radio and online sources, the broadcaster holds an important role in what issues and perspectives are reported to the public. This means they play a crucial role in helping the public to form opinions on a range of subjects, including which political party to vote for in a landmark U.K. election.
If the accusation of the BBC’s bias sticks and continues to trend on social media, it could not only damage the BBC’s own reputation but genuinely impact the result of the election. For if the BBC are not reliable, where will the U.K. public turn to for impartial reporting?
[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]