Robert Peston's claims that the BBC is preoccupied with a news agenda set by right-wing newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph are "garbage", according to an editor who has worked at both papers.
Peston made the remarks during a question and answer session in London last week, attended by The Huffington Post UK, in which he also said the claim the BBC is biased was "bollocks" and it had, in fact, become "completely obsessed" with the right-wing press.
"There's a slightly 'safety first' thing at the BBC - that if we think the Mail or the Telegraph is gonna lead with it, then we should lead with it," he told the audience at the University of Westminster. "I happen to think that's mad."
He was also asked whether the corporation was, as it often claimed, biased in favour of the left, saying: "It's bollocks really.
"If I'm honest, the BBC's routinely so anxious about being accused of being left-wing, it quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, [a] rather right-wing direction, so that it's not accused of that."
Tony Gallagher, who was Daily Telegraph editor until January and has just joined the Daily Mail as its deputy editor, took to Twitter to slam Peston.
He wrote: "I'd love to see evidence for Robert Peston's assertion the BBC follows a Mail/Telegraph agenda. It strikes me is talking garbage."
I'd love to see evidence for Robert Peston's assertion the BBC follows a Mail/Telegraph agenda. It strikes me he is talking garbage— Tony Gallagher (@gallaghereditor) June 7, 2014
Gallagher became the Mail's joint deputy editor in April, having been sacked from the Telegraph in January.
He became Telegraph editor in November, 2009, having played a key role in the paper's coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal as deputy editor, earlier that year.
Journalist and media commentator Roy Greenslade backed up Peston's claim, saying Gallagher was being "disingenous".
"There is a lot of research showing how often the Today programme on Radio 4 follows up the stories in the papers the day before," he told The Observer.
"Tony Gallagher is being a bit disingenuous perhaps because the Mail are always saying how much they set the agenda and make the news.
"The truth is that the Daily Mail is the best-selling national newspaper and the Daily Telegraph is the best-selling broadsheet, so it is quite natural for the BBC to pay attention to what they say and for those papers to be the ones that are most often followed up."
Peston's remarks are backed up by the findings of a University of Cardiff report, which concluded the broadcaster had a right-wing bias in the sources it relied on.
During his lecture on Thursday, Peston attacked the growing influence of the PR industry on journalism, saying people in public relations were "professional bullshitters".
He said: "Many PRs can be seen both as more pernicious than the individual who consciously speaks the truth or the person who consciously lies – in that the liar knows that he is a liar, but many professional bullshitters have lost the capacity to see the difference between fact and fiction.
"I should point out that of course PRs aren’t the only bullshitters; but if they are not paid to bullshit, to present their clients in the best possible light, what are they being paid to do?"Suggest a correction