EVIDENCE of a “pro-establishment bias” within the BBC has been underlined by the panellists invited onto the corporation's flagship Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show in the six months since its first broadcast, an expert has told The Sunday National.

Analysis of the guests brought on to the panel to commentate alongside Kuenssberg – not those brought on to be interviewed – reveals that Tory MPs are twice as likely to be invited on as Labour ones.

Commentators with right-wing connections are also much more likely to feature than those with links to the left.

READ MORE: Stanley Johnson domestic abuse allegation 'a one off', says Fiona Bruce

However, there may be some positive signs, as Kuenssberg’s show seems to be leaning towards more independent expert voices, according to analysis of the first six months of the flagship show conducted by The Sunday National.

It found that of the 75 panellists over the 25 shows:

  • 14 were Tories compared to seven from Labour. Three SNP MPs featured. There was one Green MP and no representation for the LibDems.
  • Commentators with links to the right-wing – such as The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson or former Boris Johnson adviser Cleo Watson – featured seven times, compared to those from left-wing media outlets featuring twice – The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar and The Mirror’s Alison Phillips.
  • Two celebrities have appeared, comedian Joe Lycett and actor Brian Cox. Both could be classified as left-wing.
  • Business and trade unions were relatively even, with seven representatives from the former and eight from the latter.
  • The largest group was academics or experts who could be considered politically neutral, with 24 of these having been invited on to the panel. In one broadcast on November 13, all three panellists fell into this category.

The research follows a running count of Question Time panellists being kept by author Steve Paxton. On March 2, he tweeted: “Drearily predictable to see Tom Harwood from GB News on @bbcquestiontime again tonight … that's 29 right-wing media figures compared to 4 left-wing since the start of last year.”

SNP president and Glasgow University professor Michael Russell said: “The data now proves the right-leaning bias of key BBC politics coverage. Add to that the scandal surrounding Board and Chair appointments favouring Tory donors and supporters and it is little wonder viewers – and indeed many BBC staff – want to see a complete shake out of the organisation.”

Russell said the BBC had work to do “before it can be regarded as authoritative and balanced again, if indeed that is possible”.

Dr Russell Jackson, a senior media lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, penned an open letter to the BBC in February raising concerns about bias on panels and from hosts, BBC management’s links to the Tories, and a tendency towards platforming “dangerous rhetoric”.

Jackson told The Sunday National that the “astonishing response to that letter [which has now been read more than 200,000 times] suggests that a hell of a lot of people are very concerned” about what is happening with the broadcaster.

He further said the issue of “pro-establishment bias within the BBC” was worsening, with a predilection towards right-wing commentators and a growing likelihood to platform Tory guests.

He said: “The BBC will tend towards over-representing whoever is in power in the day. We saw that with New Labour … but I think it’s getting worse now.

“I think it’s getting worse for a variety of reasons, not least [Tory donor and Boris Johnson ally] Richard Sharp is the new boss, not least because the head of news now is the ex-GB News [editorial director John McAndrew].

“I think the BBC are on the back foot because they’re scared of threats from the Government to remove the licence fee. There’s a whole host of reasons. There’s no mono-causal theme to this.”

READ MORE: BBC journalists overwhelmingly want chair Richard Sharp fired, poll finds

However, Jackson further said that the BBC was a crucial public service, likening it to the NHS. He told The Sunday National that the fact that the largest group of panellists on Kuenssberg’s show were experts who could be considered neutral was a positive sign.

He said it was “absolutely fundamental” that the BBC platformed more experts, instead of “journalists and political commentators who are highly partisan and wheeled out as being the voice of expertise”.

“We have tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who have devoted their lives to studying in great detail particular issues, and we rarely hear from any at all. That’s just such a tragedy.

“I think most people in Britain would love the opportunity to have calm, rational, expert voices discussing the issues that matter in a non-polarising way. The BBC used to be great at that.

“Now … it seems to be being dragged down, a tabloidisation almost of the BBC, and that’s tragic.”

Jackson said that the BBC seemed to be moving towards a model based on boosting engagement, something more akin to the clickbait seen in some commercial media.

READ MORE: BBC has 'no solution' to Scotland vs England impartiality issue, internal review says

This concern echoed a BBC insider, who was quoted in a detailed internal report published in January as saying that the corporation was not writing about what people “ought to know”. Instead, they said, output was “based on what people are searching for on Google”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We disagree there’s any indication of bias. In the six months since the programme has aired, the panel has featured voices from inside and outside of politics – including arts, culture and journalists – who have provided insight on the biggest stories of the week.

“Panellists are always selected in accordance with our guidelines on fairness and impartiality and we take weekly judgments to ensure it represents a broad range of views and across the series as a whole.”