Marr: ‘an example of real objectivity – accurate, balanced and objective’
Broadcasting minister Lord McIntosh angered BBC journalists this week when he questioned their objectivity in reacting to news.
It came when he suggested that editorial staff made up their minds about what the news should be before it happened.
His remarks caused astonishment, especially as the BBC and the Government are awaiting the outcome of the Hutton Inquiry into claims on the Today programme that Downing Street sexed-up the Iraqi military threat to justify the war.
Even more astonishing, McIntosh voiced his criticisms while setting out to defend the BBC against claims it had reduced its political coverage.
Answering a debate on political coverage by the media, McIntosh said he agreed with former economics lobby correspondent Lord Marlesford “that there are many occasions when prejudgement by editorial staff of what they think will happen blinds them to what is actually happening. “I am afraid that happens far too often.”
One BBC journalist said the minister’s remarks were resented by BBC journalists. Marlesford acquitted the BBC of “party-political bias” but said it had its own agenda.
He singled out political editor Andrew Marr for praise. He was, he said, “an example of real objectivity. If any one fills the three criteria of accuracy, balance and objectivity, it is he.”
But he said: “A number of others whom I will not mention could seek to emulate that.”
McIntosh defended the BBC’s political output. “It has been said there has been a reduction in the coverage of politics by the BBC. I challenge that.
“The BBC’s political programmes unit, based at Westminster, provides eight hours a week of live TV on BBC One and Two and similar amounts on radio.”
Opening the debate, former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Patten said the BBC had developed its own view of the world and as a result had become “more institutionally left wing”.
He said: “The aggressive, sometimes antagonistic and scoop-driven style of political journalism that we now have does not add very much to human understanding.”
By David Rose