BBC urged to stop feeding a frenzy over ‘alienating’ leadership race

Boris Johnson: BBC addresses interview complaints

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This past week, the BBC’s news coverage has been dominated by the comings and goings of Westminster following prime minister Liz Truss and home secretary Suella Braverman’s resignations. In the days that followed, BBC Breakfast and other outlets have focused on the leadership race and the speculation surrounding who could next step into Downing Street. However, its coverage has been met with swathes of complaints, as Ahmed explained on Saturday morning.

During News Watch on Saturday’s BBC Breakfast, Ahmed took the reins from Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt to share with viewers the latest comments and complaints lodged against the broadcaster’s coverage.

“Not for the first time lately, it feels like the political temperature in Westminster has been rising every day this week, culminating in Thursday’s resignation by the prime minister,” Ahmed began.

“There had been two more top-tier ministerial resignations beforehand, the first being that of Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor only last Friday.

“This caller to our News Watch phone line took exception to the coverage that followed, leaving us this message.”

As clips of the BBC’s coverage of Kwarteng’s car leaving Downing Street played, the caller raged: “Why was he followed, his car followed, so far? All through London, through Central London and beyond. 

“That was most unnecessary, in very bad taste and it was like he was being hounded out London.”

Ahmed added: “On Thursday, Liz Truss followed Kwasi Kwarteng and home secretary, Suella Braverman, out of office. After watching the BBC’s coverage of her resignation, Ted Sloan used again the word ‘hounded’ which we heard on that phone message.”

She read aloud his message: “‘I am sick to the back teeth of the constant hounding of politicians. You speculate, and continue feeding what you call news, to satisfy sensationalism.’”

Mr Sloan wasn’t alone as Ahmed continued: “And in the opinion of a viewer named CH, ‘There is a vindictiveness about BBC reporting which I don’t see on Sky News or ITV News.’”

However, she explained there was some positive feedback: “But there were compliments too, including this from Jane Soole, ‘Brilliant reporting on the Commons chaos. I have been glued to the BBC News Channel.’

“And Jessi Loftus added, ‘What an incredible job Chris Mason is doing during this complete political mess. I’m really enjoying his commentary and his clarity of explanation.’”

But it wasn’t just Kwarteng’s departure which sparked uproar as the Tory leadership race also fell in the firing line.

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Ahmed went on: “By Thursday afternoon, talk had moved on to who might take over as prime minister and on the BBC News at Six, one name, in particular, featured strongly.”

Clips of vox pops of members of the public calling for Boris played out which prompted Ahmed to explain: “Some viewers felt that those members of the public selected to give their opinions on air were not representative. 

“Here’s Nick Major, ‘Your Vox pops focused exclusively on older Tory voters, including a huge majority of people calling for Boris Johnson to be returned. A complete outrage.’ 

“Elizabeth Cooke agreed, ‘Yet again, your reporters are out interviewing, presumable the only people they can find: retired Tory voters. As a 35-year-old, non-Tory voter, this is both frustrating and alienating. Frind some younger people to talk to – we are out there and we have opinions!’

“And Ruth Maddison begged, ‘Please will you stop feeding a frenzy for Bring Back Boris. If the media continue to push this, you will be steering thinking towards a self-fulfilling prophecy.’”

Later in the show, Samira said: “Whenever there’s big political news, as there has been this week, there is a particular focus on whether the BBC reports it objectively, fairly and impartially. 

“And there will always be those who detect a bias in one direction or another.”

BBC Breakfast airs daily at 6am on BBC One.

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