The BBC Today programme faced accusations of bias from Boris Johnson over their allegedly “anti-Tory” reporting in the run-up to the general election. Mr Johnson suggested before the vote he would consider decriminalising the non-payment of the licence fee in a move some commentators have interpreted as part of a two-pronged attack to protest the conduct of the programme. LBC presenter Nick Ferrari hit out at the “flagship” state of the BBC programme.
As he listened to a report of the row between the BBC and the Prime Minister, Mr Ferrari interrupted the newscast: “Some flagship!
“More like a dinghy at the back.”
Number 10 pulled some ministers scheduled to appear on the BBC Today programme’s Saturday edition and sources claimed the Government is considering to “withdraw engagement” from the show in the future.
Accusations of BBC bias extended to an on-air monologue by veteran host Andrew Neil in which the BBC presented challenged Boris Johnson to appear on his show to be interviewed ahead of the election as well as “extensive coverage” of a young boy suffering from suspected pneumonia being forced to sleep on a hospital floor due to overcrowding.
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The BBC was labelled a “dinghy in the back” by Nick Ferrari
BBC director-general Tony Hall dismissed all accusations of bias
The BBC has however rejected any claim of anti-Tory bias as director-general Tony Hall insisted on an email addressed to staff after the allegations of bias emerged on Friday.
In the email, Mr Hall wrote: “In a frenetic campaign where we’ve produced hundreds of hours of output, of course we’ve made the odd mistake and we’ve held up our hands to them.
“Editors are making tough calls every minute of the day.
“But I don’t accept the view of those critics who jump on a handful of examples to suggest we’re somehow biased one way or the other.”
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Boris Johnson suggested he will seek to decriminalise not paying the licence fee
Days before the vote, the Prime Minister cast doubt over the future of the licence fee currently funding the BBC as he argued the corporation could find inspiration from other media outlets using alternative revenue sources to found themselves.
The BBC licence fee is guaranteed to continue at least until 2027 and any change to the funding structure would require Parliament to pass a new law.
While on the campaign trail, Mr Johnson told the press: “You have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a media organisation still makes sense in the long-term given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves.
“That’s all I would say – the system of funding out of what is, effectively, a general tax it bears reflection.”
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The BBC announced as many as 3.7 million OAPs could lose their free licence next year
Mr Johnson also urged the BBC to “cough up” the money for over-75s licence fees after the corporation announced they would put an end to the scheme guaranteeing free TV access to OAPs in 2020.
He said: “What I certainly think is that the BBC should cough up and pay for the licences for over-75s as they promised to do.
“But at this stage, we are not planning to get rid of all TV licences though I’m certainly looking at it.”
The Government passed the cost of providing free TV licences for pensioners to the BBC in 2015.
But the corporation has claimed that would have cost £745million by 2021/22 and risked the closure of a number of their channels and radio stations.
From June 2020, up to 3.7 million pensioners will lose their free TV licences.