Sir David Clementi argued many older people consider the BBC left-wing, whereas a lot of young people think its bias to the right. Senior Conservatives have repeatedly claimed the BBC leans to the left and Boris Johnson has suggested he could decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.
Addressing the Voice of the Listener and Viewer autumn conference about bias Sir David said: “There is a general trend.
“We do a lot of impartiality surveys and they show that about a quarter of our audience think we lean to the left, and slightly less – but nevertheless a very substantial number – think we lean to the right.
“But the interesting thing about it is that it’s very age-related.
“Once you get over 50, there are a significant number of people who are convinced that we all live in Islington and we all, you know, whatever. They’re convinced of it.
It is illegal to watch live TV in the UK without paying the £157.50 per year BBC licence fee
“But if you speak to a younger generation, they occasionally think we’re part of the Establishment and we lean to the right.”
During his period as Labour leader supporters of Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly accused the corporation of being bias against him.
It is illegal to watch live TV in the UK without paying the £157.50 per year BBC licence fee.
Sir David revealed that shortly after last year’s general election he was berated in public by a group of students who thought the BBC was bias to the right.
Sir David Clementi is chair of the BBC
He said: “Six or seven young students came up to me to berate me on the BBC’s performance in the election, which they said had been so heavily biased towards the Conservatives, they couldn’t believe it.
“There is a very big, age-related issue around the matter of impartiality, we take it seriously.
“For the great majority of our output we are very good but [new director-general] Tim Davie has made this his priority number one and we are doubling down on impartiality.”
Sir David claimed the BBC could thrive as a Netflix style subscription service, but suggested this isn’t what the British public want.
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Sir David said some young people see the BBC as bias to the right
Jeremy Corbyn campaigning ahead of the 2019 General Election
UK Netflix users pay a standard fee of £8.99 per month.
Sir David commented: “Those who promote – and there are a lot of them – the notion of a subscription services brush aside these points.
“They rarely grapple with the technical problems, they do not explain how radio is to be paid for, they don’t engage with the commercial reality of a subscription service, nor do they point out to the public the types of investment, programmes and services that would be lost.
“Their argument is largely ideological.”
Earlier this year campaign group Defund the BBC launched calling for non-payment of the licence fee to be decriminalised.
The group has since attracted over 98,000 followers on Twitter.
People caught watching TV without a licence can be fined up to £1,000 as well as court costs, and can face prison if they fail to pay.
Shortly after the 2019 General Election Lord Hall, then the BBC’s Director General, defended the corporation in an article for the Daily Telegraph.
“Around 27 million people in the UK came to the BBC website to find out about the election results”
He said: “Around 27 million people in the UK came to the BBC website to find out about the election results.
“It was a reminder of the trust people place in the BBC.
“But the fact criticism came from all sides of the political divide shows to me that we were doing our job without fear or favour.”