Former investigations chief slams BBC for “pro-government bias” and abandoning investigative reporting

The BBC has ‘abandoned’ investigative reporting and has a fundamental bias towards the party in power, says the former head of investigations at BBC Newsnight in a damning editorial.

Meirion Jones won the London Press Awards Scoop of the Year for his part in the investigation into Jimmy Savile, and says the BBC “let down” whistleblowers who came to them because it was too cautious.

He also slammed the corporation for its coverage of news that could portray the government in a bad light.

Take the junior doctors’ strike this month. Newsnight, to its credit, ran a MORI poll showing 66% public in favour, 18% against. But on the day of the action Today trawled for anti-strike patients, and the BBC News at Ten ran two negative voices from ordinary people, and no-one in favour.

He said it wasn’t just the Tories, but a general pro-government bias that also existed during the Iraq War.

Investigations aim to hold power to account, and one of the most powerful institutions is the government. People ask me is the BBC biased, and my answer is that the fundamental corporate bias is pro-government, regardless of party. It’s the licence fee – stupid.

In his essay, Jones outlines how the BBC has consistently let down investigative journalists working at the corporation and failed to challenge powerful, vested interests.

Back in the 2000s I was asked to draw up a plan for a BBC investigations unit, to take on the papers. I wasn’t necessarily interested in running it but I was interested in writing the blueprint and working in it. It was because we had created something similar on a smaller scale at the BBC’s ‘flagship’ current affairs show Newsnight. I had previously worked in radio (on Today, World at One and PM) and on moving to Newsnight I was shocked at how little journalism TV producers really did. The production demands of television meant that booking guests, getting crew to the right places, finding pictures, and ordering graphics took precedence over finding out what the story was.

This isn’t a surprise to anyone who watched the BBC’s coverage of Junior Doctors strikes