It’s more important than ever to ensure broadcasting is balanced and fair

Labour Party

I received a letter from a member of the public during the Easter break in which he stated concerns over the way in which broadcasters cover European politics and the European Union.

He noted that the EU is often used as a punch bag, featuring negative stories and ignoring much of the positive work the EU is responsible for. It’s interesting that someone outside of the political arena has noticed this and also the disproportionate amount of air time given to UKIP.

I would never quibble with the view that media outlets, both broadcast and print, must be able to set out their stall and express a wide range of views. Even though I may not agree with the content, I do understand that in the interests of balance alternative views must be shared and aired, however this must not be disproportionate in relation to the amount of coverage other parties receive.

While I’m not accusing any broadcaster of deliberately behaving in such a way as to favour one political party, it is interesting to me that someone, not directly involved in broadcasting or politics has noticed and felt compelled enough to write to me about their concern.

As the referendum approaches it couldn’t be more important to ensure fair, balanced and proportionate coverage of all parties is given.

Below are the words of the gentleman who wrote to me:

“In the EU referendum debate, how on earth is the general public to make head or tail of the plethora of fictions, nonsense and just occasionally the odd fact coming from campaigners left and right, leave and remain?

“Whatever your point of view on the pros and cons of the EU, it seems to me that the media do an extremely poor job of reporting what the EU actually does, how it’s organised and what our elected MEPs do.

“In fact I’ve started noting down how often our MEPs appear on BBC News programmes. I regularly see the BBC 6 o’clock News, the local BBC TV news at 6.30, BBC 2‘s Newsnight and BBC 1’s Question Time. On the radio, I regularly tune into the Radio 4 Today programme and also PM at 5pm – so I would count myself as fairly well informed about what the BBC chooses to report.

“It only takes a couple of days to relies that the EU is often only featured as a punch-bag, a bureaucratic quagmire or as a source for stories like the ‘tampon tax’.

“A particular problem seems to be that if you’re one of the UK’s 73 elected MEPs from all parts of the United Kingdom and representing all political parties, you only get invited to give your views on national news programmes if you’re a UKIP MEP.

“In fact, if you start counting up the appearances, you very soon find out that anti EU MEPs Nigel Farage, Paul Nuttall, Louise Bours, Patrick O’Flynn and Roger Helmer are regularly asked to air their views, and whereas since the beginning of 2016 these five UKIP MEPs have all appeared on BBC’s Question Time, of the other 49 MEPs from other political parties who represent us in the European Parliament one hasn’t been able to hear a single word.

“Personally I think this is unacceptable, and given the referendum on EU membership on the 23rd June it’s high time the issue of bias was raised.

“You can find out for yourself of course who your MEP is – in fact it couldn’t be easier as MEPs’ contact offices, EU emails, Twitter and website details are just a couple of clicks away at Which committees do our MEPs sit on ? How often do they vote? What topics are under discussion in the EU Parliament at the moment?

“I’d love the BBC to tell me from time to time, but in the meantime, I think I’ll use their official complaint form and tell them what I think of their skewing of the EU news.”