Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Elections
28 November 2019updated 02 Sep 2021 5:17pm

Liberal Democrats join in the growing criticism of BBC’s election coverage

By George Grylls

The BBC has taken a pounding in the aftermath of the general election. Downing Street briefed over the weekend that the new Conservative government would be boycotting the Today programme and decriminalising licence fee avoidance. Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said that the broadcast media “unfairly demonised” Jeremy Corbyn over the course of the campaign. Now a senior Liberal Democrat has joined in the criticism, saying the party was wrongfully ignored by senior executives.

“We didn’t get traction because we found it very difficult to get into the story,” said Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip.

“You saw the way the big media outlets — BBC, ITV, Sky — cast the election as a contest between Labour and the Conservatives.”

Carmichael has questioned why Jo Swinson was excluded from the leadership debates between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Both the main parties fought hard to exclude the Liberal Democrats, remembering the brief wave of Cleggmania that followed the 2010 election debates.

“If you see these so-called ‘Leaders debates’ they were crying out for another view in there. A debate between two main parties who wanted Brexit to happen in different ways was not a debate.”

From the perspective of many opposition MPs, the BBC in particular had a torrid campaign. Political reporter Laura Kuenssberg inaccurately tweeted that a Tory aide had been punched by a Labour protestor. Most embarrassingly, Boris Johnson failed to sit down for an interview with Andrew Neil. BBC director general Tony Hall responded to criticism in an email to staff where he admitted that the “odd mistake” had been made but maintained that it was not evidence of bias.

However, Carmichael points to Jo Swinson’s harsh treatment by a BBC audience during the Question Time Leaders Special as evidence of failure.

“There were only two nominated Liberal Democrats in the room. And everybody else there had a party affiliation. They were all determined to define Jo Swinson, instead of allowing Jo Swinson to define herself.”

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action