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Coronavirus: Government complains to BBC over Panorama show on PPE amid political bias claims

Oliver Dowden has written to BBC director general Lord Hall (PA)

2 min read

The Government has formally complained to the BBC over its Panorama programme exposing problems with the supply of protective equipment to frontline NHS staff.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to director-general Tony Hall warning the corporation it risks losing the public's confidence amid accusations of political bias.

He is urging 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 says in his letter he is 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 adds: “The public should be able to turn to the BBC for transparent, unimpeachable, reliable news.”

Boris Johnson’s administration has been at loggerheads with the national broadcaster for months, claiming its coverage is too anti-Government, and an ongoing row over the future of the TV license.

In the run-up to last year’s election ministers boycotted its flagship Today programme on Radio 4, and there was a row over the Prime Minister’s failure to be interviewed by broadcaster Andrew Neil.

The BBC was also forced to apologise last month for claiming the director of an NHS trust had asked them 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”.

Refer the Panorama and Burberry items, 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.”

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