Think tank report accuses BBC of pro-immigration 'propaganda' and 'elitist viewpoint'

A think tank report has questioned the BBC’s impartiality, criticising it for “pro-immigration”.

The study, by Catholic Herald deputy editor Ed West, criticises several instances where it is felt that the corporation has not given equal weight to pro- and anti-immigration coverage.

The report, which relies on material from 1997 to present, criticises a number of flagship BBC offerings, including the Today programme and Newsnight.

The study, Groupthink: Can we trust the BBC on immigration?, was published by right-wing think tank The New Culture Forum.

Former BBC business editor Jeff Randall is quoted in it as saying that when he was at the BBC, before moving to Sky News in 2007, multiculturalism was “supported” by the BBC.

He said: “Don’t take my word for it because, when I complained to the BBC about our coverage of asylum-seekers, this is what I got back from the very senior BBC news executive: ‘Jeff, the BBC internally is not neutral about multiculturalism. It believes in it, and it promotes diversity. Let’s face up to that.’

“Now, does that sound like impartiality to you?”

The report also criticises “bias” at BBC Online. It describes one online feature, from June 2002, as pro-immigration “propaganda”.

It said of the special feature, “Migrant myths”: “The views of the unanimously pro-migration interviewees blend seamlessly with the editorial, so that it is hard to see where the advocacy ends and the journalism begins.

“The arguments made for more immigration appear to be simply the voice of the BBC.”

The website is criticised on multiple occasions in the 74-page report, along with some of the corporation's flagship programmes.

The Today programme was censured for a report this year on “white flight” (where families were moving from East London) in which presenter James Naughtie described it as “a story of aspiration” and “success”.

The report also criticised Newsnight for  underplaying the significance of migration patterns shown in the 2011 Census.

West’s report concludes: “In its coverage of the topic of immigration, the BBC has given overwhelmingly greater weight to pro-migration voices, even though they represent a minority – even elitist – viewpoint.

“And in its coverage of the economic arguments for and against immigration, it has devoted somewhat more space to pro-migration voices. In terms of the social costs, the BBC has almost totally ignored certain areas.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC's coverage of immigration is approached in the same impartial and balanced way as any other story, hearing from a range of voices and exploring a variety of perspectives. The BBC Trust is currently conducting an impartiality review into the breadth of opinion of the BBC’s News, Current Affairs and Factual output. Part of this review will look at the Corporation’s coverage of immigration.”

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