THE BBC must re-evaluate its approach to impartiality and end the “concerning politicisation” of its leadership if it hopes to regain trust, experts have told the Sunday National.

It comes after a poll conducted for this paper found that the majority of Scots do not believe the broadcaster did a good job of accurately reporting on the impacts of Brexit.

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Media and propaganda expert Dr Emma Briant said the BBC had to give people “truth, not false equivalency”.

She went on: “The BBC equalised the ‘sides’ carefully during the [Brexit] campaigns, failed to expose lies or explain what was at stake for the country, and then failed to investigate much of the wrongdoing in the vote, taking a position afterwards that the country had made its decision.”

Stephen Cushion, a media professor and research director at Cardiff University, said the BBC should try to provide an “outside-Westminster perspective to see what the actual evidence base is” rather than relying on balancing the views of the two main UK parties.

He told the Sunday National: “The way in which most broadcasters, particularly ITV and the BBC, try and balance, try and construct impartiality, is primarily for a parliamentary system.

“If both parties are staying quiet about it, if they don’t raise it as a big issue, then if the BBC or ITV were to independently try and make it about Brexit, you can see where complaints would come in: ‘Why is the BBC correspondent going outside of the parliamentary political debate, why are they interpreting it in this particular way?’”

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Cushion suggested that rather than relying on the dichotomy of Labour against Conservatives in debates on any issue, the BBC “should be looking at more independent analysis and making sure that their voice is a bit more regular and a bit more prominent”.

Commenting on the same issue, Briant said she thought there was “certainly truth to the importance of the agenda-setting role of the political parties” on BBC coverage.

She went on: “If the Labour Party wished to make Brexit an issue it could. And indeed it should. Support for the EU rebounded as the public saw the consequences of the vote. Labour should be putting the genuine interests of the country first and providing a firm counter to the Tories.”

Briant also raised the issue of the “politicisation” of the BBC’s leadership. Since Boris Johnson first became prime minister, several top roles have been filled by people with strong links to the Conservatives.

The National: Tim Davie, the new director-general of the BBC has promised to crackdown on tweets sent by high-profile BBC employees. Picture: ANDREW MILLIGAN/PA

Tim Davie (above), who ran for election on the Conservative ticket in the 1990s and was formerly the deputy chair of his local branch, became BBC director-general in September 2020. Richard Sharp, a former banker who has donated more than £400,000 to the Tory Party, became the broadcaster’s chair in February 2021.

And Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former director of communications in No 10, was made the BBC board member for England in April 2021. Former Newsnight host Emily Maitlis said last year that Gibb had been acting as an “active agent of the Conservative party” within the broadcaster.

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Briant, a fellow of Bard College in New York, told the Sunday National: “Since Brexit we have seen a concerning politicisation of the BBC’s leadership for example a series of appointments of Tory donors and operatives to the BBC’s board. This trend must be reversed if they are to rebuild trust in their reporting.”

Looking at the detail of the Sunday National poll, Cushion said it was interesting that both Leave and Remain voters had broadly similar pictures of the BBC’s reporting on Brexit.

Among the subsample of Leave voters, just 3% said the broadcaster had reported on the impacts of Brexit “very” accurately – compared to 4% of Remain voters.

At the opposite end, 23% of Leave voters said the BBC had “not at all” accurately reported on Brexit’s impacts. This was 28% for Remain voters.

The National: Brexit

Cushion said: “With the Leave and Remain split, the way that the question is worded, ‘do you think it’s accurate’, they could both believe not in different ways.

“If you’re Remain you could be saying why aren’t they pointing to Brexit more and more because clearly a lot of economists are saying this is a root cause [of the UK’s problems].

“And if you’re a Leave voter you’re saying well why are they not reporting on some of the positive developments, the free trade agreements, the ability not to be wrapped up in what they see as red tape. You’re never likely to placate both groups in that sense.

“Interestingly the people that didn’t vote Leave or Remain, 40% of that group either didn’t know or preferred not to say. In other words, unless you’ve got skin in the game, unless you have a view of Brexit, then you perhaps don’t have a view on whether the BBC are accurate or not.”