BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz is ‘completely biased’, minister claims | BBC


Comments by Huw Merriman come day after No 10 forced to deny government pursuing agenda against BBC

A minister has lashed out at a satirical Radio 4 show as being “completely biased” in the latest allegation from the Conservatives about BBC impartiality.

Huw Merriman, a transport minister, also referenced the BBC’s coverage of universal credit when challenged to give examples of supposed bias a day after a row was sparked by remarks by the culture secretary.

Downing Street was forced on Monday to deny the government was pursuing an agenda against the BBC after Lucy Frazer accused the corporation of bias and argued that it needed to adapt or risk losing the trust of audiences.

Frazer had struggled during an interview on Sky News to give examples of bias, citing repeatedly the BBC’s reporting of an attack on a hospital in Gaza.

But when challenged on Tuesday morning to come up with further examples, Merriman had said an episode of The News Quiz last Friday had struck him as “completely biased”.

“For 10 minutes all I heard was – and it wasn’t satirical – it was just diatribe against Conservatives. Not the government. And I did listen to that and think ‘for goodness sake’ where is the balance in that?” he told Sky News.

When reminded by Sky’s Kay Burley that it was a satirical show, Merriman said it did not strike him as particularly satirical and challenged any viewer to listen to it and make up their own mind.

However, he went on to attack the BBC’s coverage of universal credit, on which he had worked when attached to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Merriman singled out and named a journalist who the minister “always felt gave one side of the story and not the other side, the government’s side”.

Ofcom, the media watchdog, is to be given more powers to investigate the BBC, while the organisation’s board could get responsibility over its complaints process, under proposals in a midterm review of its governance and regulations.

Frazer told Times Radio on Monday: “This isn’t about the government. This is about impartiality and not just about politics. Audiences are feeling like impartiality and the BBC is on a downward trajectory.”

The shadow culture secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, criticised Frazer’s remarks, posting on X: “Just the latest in a long line of secretaries of state for culture wars. Attacking and undermining one of our greatest institutions at every chance they get.”

The National Union of Journalists accused Merriman of “scraping the barrel” and said it was “shameful” to single out individual journalists for criticism.

“Not content with demonstrating his lack of humour when it comes to topical satire shows, Huw Merriman felt the need to impugn the work of an individual journalist for the apparent crime of not lapping up his words of wisdom when he was batting for universal credit in a past ministerial gig,” said Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary.

Merriman appears to have confused the BBC journalist he was seeking to criticise with Neil Buchanan, the host of children’s show Art Attack.

“It’s a shame he failed to get the journalist’s name right, but it’s even more shameful that a government minister feels it’s acceptable to slag off individual reporters in this way.”

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