Jonathan Dimbleby: BBC “so concerned” with impartiality it sometimes misses the point.
Veteran broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby mounted a staunch defence of the BBC, calling on those who criticise the broadcaster to reflect on what a UK without the
BBC would be like.
Speaking before a packed house at a Media Society event at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair on Monday, he told former director of BBC News Helen Boaden, “The BBC is by far the best broadcasting institution in the world”.
It would be a “great loss”, he said, if the institution were to collapse, “because without it, what will we be able to make of fake news?”
However, he warned, the BBC’s determination towards being even-handed is actually hindering the corporation.
“The BBC is so concerned – and rightly – to be impartial that it finds it sometimes difficult to [present] that one side of an argument has a [better point] than the other,” he said. This could be seen in its coverage of the climate crisis particularly. He recalls an infamous 2017 interview with Nigel Lawson in which the former Chancellor denied the existence of climate change, to the derision of many in the world of science.
Scientist Jim Al-Khalili said at the time that “to bring on Lord Lawson ‘in the name of balance’ on climate change is both ignorant and irresponsible.” The BBC was found to have broken Ofcom’s accuracy rules in this case.
Similarly, Dimbleby said, Brexit has posed a problem for the corporation. It failed, he said, to challenge now-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove over repeated claims that remaining in the EU would allow mass migration of Turkish people into the UK, with implications for the NHS.
Gove has since said, “If it had been left entirely to me the leave campaign would have a slightly different feel.”
Dimbleby explained that Brexit has led to an erosion of traditional party boundaries in politics, leaving the corporation in a “very uncomfortable” position of having to ascertain the requirements of its impartiality.
However, he leapt furiously to defend the BBC from those who criticise it for being partial.
“They know not what they say,” he said of critics from the left and the right who insist that their party or view is being negatively presented by a biased BBC.
“They need to go home, swot up, and think about what the world would look like without the BBC.”
Jonathan Dimbleby in conversation with Helen Boaden was a Media Society event, produced by John Mair.
To learn more about the event click here