A row has broken out between the BBC and the author of a media report that described the broadcaster as “a mouthpiece for the right wing press” following claims of “clear and consistent bias” against Jeremy Corbyn.
The study from The Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck, University of London, analysed TV and online news during the 10 days after the wave of resignations from the Labour leader’s shadow cabinet.
The report accused the BBC of giving twice as much airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his supporters on some programmes during the crisis following the Brexit vote.
Report author Dr Justin Schlosberg hit out at the BBC after the broadcaster defended its coverage.
A BBC spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “BBC News adheres to its editorial guidelines to report with due impartiality. We are confident our coverage of Labour’s unprecedented en masse frontbench resignation was impartial and we continue to air views from both sides of the party’s ongoing divisions.”
The spokesperson added that the Media Reform Coalition was a “vested interest group” and had only analysed some BBC programmes over ten days, acknowledging itself that the sample did not reflect the breadth of the BBC’s news coverage.
But Schlosberg accused the BBC of being “a mouthpiece for the right wing press” after their statement.
“Just for record, the BBC’s completely unsubstantiated charge of ‘vested interests’ smacks of tabloid speak,” he said.
“The Media Reform Coalition was founded by world-renowned professors including James Curran and research carried out by academics at Birkbeck and Goldsmiths, University of London.
“Rather than engage constructively with that research, which is what we appealed for in the report, they chose to slander us.
“This is exactly the problem: the BBC has become a mouthpiece for the right wing press.”
The research measured how much airtime and online coverage was focused on Corbyn’s allies and opponents.
The report stated there was “a marked and persistent imbalance in favour of sources critical of Jeremy Corbyn, the issues that they sought to highlight, and the arguments they advanced”.
As Corbyn faced mass resignations, the report’s authors accused the mainstream media of “imbalanced reporting” that could affect the democratic process, finding the BBC’s flagship 6pm evening TV bulletins gave double the amount of airtime to Corbyn’s political enemies than those still backing him.
In contrast, it found the ITV evening news bulletins, and the BBC’s online news were “relatively balanced” in their reporting.
The report took in 40 prime time television news bulletins on BBC One and ITV during the period, and 465 online news articles from 8 websites, between 27 June and 6 July. It looked at stories around the Labour leadership crisis, the party’s planned anti-semitism report and Corbyn’s response to the Chilcot report.
The Media Reform Coalition is not officially aligned with any political party, but has previously published studies that present Corbyn as under fire by the media.
It published research in 2015 claiming Corbyn was ‘systematically’ attacked by British press in his first few weeks as Labour leader.
In today’s report, called ‘Should he stay or should he go?’ it commented that it was “not surprising” that the country’s conservative press did not support Corbyn, but said that the “trusted” medium of TV was governed by “strict rules” on impartiality.