(from Blithering Bunny)
An extraordinary letter from Peter Mandelson to Michael Grade (Chairman of the BBC), obtained by The Times:
PETER MANDELSON, the European Trade Commissioner, has mounted an attack on John Humphrys, the Today programme journalist, complaining to the BBC of his “virulently anti-European” views and claiming that the “anti-European bias” of some BBC presenters is a “problem”.
In a stinging letter, obtained by The Times, to Michael Grade, the BBC Chairman, Mr Mandelson accused the BBC of failing in its charter obligation to promote “understanding” of European affairs and declared: “I do not think the present BBC coverage is good enough.”
He said the BBC gave too much coverage to moderate Eurosceptics and should instead give more coverage to extreme Eurosceptics such as UKIP, who wanted to take Britain out of the EU altogether.
Mr Humphrys last night dismissed the criticism as political opportunism. “It’s delightful for once to be accused of being Eurosceptic when we’re usually accused at the Today programme of being Europhiles,” he said. “It’s interesting that Peter Mandelson has any idea of what my views on the subject are.
Read the rest here, including this:
His comments that “UKIP views are, if anything, under-represented” was seen by one leading moderate Eurosceptic yesterday as a cynical ploy. “It just shows how cynical the Government is, wanting to make all Eurosceptics seem like loonies,” he said.
If Mandelson – who is employed by the EC, let us not forget – is right about one thing, it is that the BBC has mostly ignored the EU issue, giving it sketchy, superficial and inadequate coverage. But Mandelson’s grasp on reality, always shaky, appears weaker than ever if thinks that the BBC is anti-EU and Humphreys “virulently anti-EU”.
The timing of the public release of this letter, which was supposed to be confidential (why? Was he worried that people would laugh at his views?) is particularly embarrassing for Mandelson, coming as it did after a recent inquiry into the BBC found that the culture at BBC News led to a “reluctance to question pro-EU assumptions”, and the day after the BBC ran a negative documentary on Kilroy in his UKIP days.
But of course this letter is just the filip the pro-Europeans at the BBC need. Now they can push for even more pro-EU coverage, on the basis that Mandelson has decreed that they’re not pro-EU enough.
P.S. Richard North has also seen this story:
This is undoubtedly a “spoiler” by Mandelson, who undoubtedly correctly assesses that if he can engineer a complaint against the BBC, its corporate tendency is to suggest that, if it is getting complaints from both sides, then its coverage must be about right – even though the review panel rejected this suggestion… Mandelson, with his known tactical skills, is obviously making an early attempt to tilt the coverage in favour of the “yes” campaign.
P.P.S. Reader Bill Collins informs me that “back in June the BBC dug up and publicized a claim that the BBC was biased in favor of Israel. The article doesn’t mention that the BBC has been accused of bias in the other direction”.