Furious Government officials have accused the broadcaster of political bias in the wake of the programme which criticised the Department of Health’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to BBC director-general Tony Hall warning the corporation it risks losing the public’s confidence.
In the letter he calls on the BBC boss to “uphold the highest standards in relation to integrity and impartiality” amid claims those interviewed for Panorama were left-wing activists.
Mr Dowden said he was sure Lord Hall “will agree that at a time of heightened risk of misinformation and disinformation, it is more important than ever that the BBC upholds the values and standards we all expect”.
He wrote: “The public should be able to turn to the BBC for transparent, unimpeachable, reliable news.”
Relations between Boris Johnson’s administration and the BBC have soured in recent months with officials claiming its coverage is anti-Government.
Ministers have only just ended a boycott of the flagship Today programme on Radio 4 and there was a row over the Prime Minister’s refusal to be interviewed by broadcaster Andrew Neil ahead of last year’s general election.
The BBC was also forced to apologise last month for claiming the director of an NHS trust had asked the corporation to put him in touch with Burberry to get hold of protective gowns for health workers.
They had accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of “fantasy” claims about PPE, but in a statement the broadcaster said the item “clearly did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards”.
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Mr Dowden said to Mr Hall: “I am sure you will agree that it is vital that public confidence is maintained in the BBC’s long-standing reputation for fair and balanced reporting, and that any damage to that would be deeply concerning.”
A senior Government source told the Mail on Sunday: “The director-general needs to get a personal grip of this so the BBC quickly get its house in order.
“There is a worrying pattern emerging of the BBC not doing its homework and presenting partisan contributors as impartial.
“Viewers need to trust what they see.”