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BBC — [Phil Wilson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Chair, Petitions Committee 4:30 pm, 15th July 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered e-petitions 234627, 234797 and 235653 relating to the BBC.

It is a great pleasure to be here under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson. All three petitions relate to the BBC. One calls for a public inquiry on what the signatories perceive as bias in the BBC, another calls for the abolition of the licence fee, and the third is about the restoration of free TV licences for the over-75s.

As we have previously debated the licence fee, and with it a number of accusations of bias, I do not propose to spend much time on it this afternoon, because lots of people want to speak. But let me be clear: as Harold Wilson said, public inquiries take minutes and last for years, and they seldom solve anything—certainly nothing as subjective as perceived bias. Although the BBC sometimes gets things wrong, as any organisation does, I do not believe it is inherently biased in its news and coverage of current affairs. Indeed, we ought to remember that the BBC’s news coverage is looked at around the world as a beacon of straightforward, unbiased news reporting. As a country, we ought to be proud of that. If it has a bias, it is probably towards London, as those of us who have sat through items about London stations on the national news will know. It does not reflect the regions and nations of this country well.