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Culture Secretary Skewered By Kay Burley Over Alleged BBC Bias

Culture Secretary Skewered By Kay Burley Over Alleged BBC Bias

Lucy Frazer ended up in a couple of sticky situations over her personal thoughts around alleged BBC bias on Monday.

The culture secretary was doing the morning media rounds to announce the publication of her mid-term review into the BBC, including changes intended to boost confidence around its impartiality.

But, Sky News’ Kay Burley was more focused on the accusations that the BBC is bias, and asked the cabinet minister what she thought about the broadcaster.

Frazer replied: “Well, what I’ve looked at is the evidence, the evidence from Ofcom – 39% of complaints last year were in relation to impartiality, but the year before it was 19%.”

“Perception isn’t necessarily reality,” Burley pointed out.

“There are only perceptions,” Frazer said. “Perceptions are important. What’s important about the BBC is that it is funded by the public. Perceptions of the BBC by the public are important.”

She added while people think the BBC is accurate, it’s not seen as impartial.

“Do you think the BBC is bias?” Burley asked again.

“I’m looking at this from the perspective of the culture secretary,” Frazer said.

After a little more dancing around the question, Frazer said she believes the BBC could be bias “on occasion”.

Pressed about examples, Frazer said: “This report isn’t about incidents, but we have seen recently that it’s had to apologise for its own reporting in relation to the attack in hospital in Israel.”

In November, the broadcaster apologised for mistakenly saying Israel was “targeting medical staff and Arab speakers” at Gaza’s largest hospital.

Burley asked again: “There’s a difference between a mistake and bias, surely?”

Frazer said: “Well, there is a perception among the public that the BBC is bias, and as culture secretary, it is important I look at this.”

Burley continued: “Yeah but I’m asking you about the evidence of bias. Where’s the evidence?”

After a short pause, Frazer replied: “The evidence of bias is what audience’s believe the content of the BBC.”

Burley said: “That’s perception not evidence.”

“That is evidence. Impartiality is about perception of things being broadcast by the BBC,” Frazer replied.

“Perception and evidence are different things,” Burley pushed.

Frazer said she and the BBC think there are more things to be done to improve its rating on that score.

Only a few minutes later, Frazer faced more scrutiny over alleged BBC bias – this time on BBC Radio 4′s flagship Today programme.

She said it would be “inappropriate” for her to share her own opinion on the matter – but then ended up sharing it anyway.

Frazer told presenter Amol Rajan: “I’ve listened to your news this morning and you’ve expressed this mid-term review in different ways across this morning – sometimes putting the government’s perspective sometimes putting the BBC’s perspective.”

Rajan quickly jumped in and asked if the BBC was being accused of misrepresenting the news this morning, on this programme.

Frazer said: “No. Not at all. I’m sorry if that’s what I suggested that at all, that’s absolutely not what I’m suggesting at all.”

Frazer claimed that “in broad terms” the BBC puts across different perspectives on different programmes.

“Overall, the BBC takes its responsibilities in terms of impartiality very seriously. And that’s why we’ve done the mid-term review, that’s why we have a 10-point plan and that’s why we have the changes that we’ve suggested,” she said.

But, Frazer said her “passing” comment was about how “interesting” it was that the news item had been “chopped up” in the BBC’s coverage.

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