BBC has leaning to left: Grayling

Mid Devon Star: Chris Grayling said the BBC does things that are not 'right and proper' for a public broadcaster Chris Grayling said the BBC does things that are not 'right and proper' for a public broadcaster

The BBC has a "cultural leaning to the left" and needs to work on its impartiality, a Tory Cabinet minister has claimed.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the BBC did things that were not "right and proper" for a public broadcaster, saying the problems were not just confined to current affairs programmes but also affected entertainment shows.

He said: " I think there's still an inclination to cover issues in a way that is very much about the culture of a slightly left-leaning, metropolitan group of people who are disproportionately represented there."

The BBC has come under fire from senior Tories over the way it has reported the Government's benefits cuts and recently the corporation insisted that a description of an ''incoherent'' Mayor of London w hich featured in an episode of Sherlock was not an attack on Boris Johnson.

In an interview with The House magazine Mr Grayling said: " They've been on the wrong side, they've been unbalanced in the debate over the years about immigration, about Europe. And I think they've wised up to that.

"But there is still a cultural view within the BBC, not just within current affairs. To some extent it's less with current affairs than within general entertainment, the throwaway lines in a drama which still suggest that actually the BBC's got some way to go before it really to my mind fulfils the role it has to be a genuinely dispassionate public service broadcaster."

He added: "The BBC is a great institution and I wouldn't want to tear it up. But I think it's still got some work to do."

The Justice Secretary said: " I think the real problem for the BBC is not that there is an intentional bias at senior levels, not that it is institutionally biased against us. But it's that there is a cultural leaning towards the left.

"The people who work at the BBC have a particular viewpoint on life more often than not."

There were people at the corporation who "want to be impartial in the way they present issues" but there was a "cultural challenge which isn't easily solved".

Mr Grayling said: " The BBC is generally very good, but there are moments when it really does things in ways that you think 'this is just not right and proper for a public broadcaster who's trying to present a dispassionate view on life'."

In the wide-ranging interview the Justice Secretary said he could "understand" the concerns expressed by TV chef Nigella Lawson following her experience giving evidence at the trial of her and ex-husband Charles Saatchi's personal assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, who were acquitted.

Lawson, who admitted during the court case that she had taken cocaine, said that she felt as if she was the one on trial and raised concerns that witnesses were not represented by counsel.

Mr Grayling said: "I don't think we are going to be able to get to a position where you've got a lawyer standing alongside the witness in the box. In many respects it's for the judge to be the advocate for the witness, in terms of saying to the lawyer 'that's over the top, you can't do that'.

"So I'd be looking more to the judiciary to be the guardian of the witnesses."

The Justice Secretary defended the use of private firms, despite the "shocking" offender electronic tagging scandal involving G4S and Serco.

"It's very easy to say because we've had two problems with two companies that all private sector relationships are bad and there are some who would do that. I don't buy that argument at all.

"But it is a lesson to those who work with government that if you try to behave in a way that is not acceptable, actually you will get caught and it will do you immense damage."

He also played down the disturbance at G4S-run Oakwood prison: "It's very simple to say 'ooh, there's trouble at a private prison' but we have within the estate each year incidents with prisoners regularly because that's the nature of it.

"If you take the case of Oakwood, since then we've had problems at two public sector prisons, which have had a fraction of the coverage because they are public sector prisons, but actually if anything were slightly more serious."

A BBC spokesman said: "It has always been the case that politicians hold views on broadcasting and the media.

"The BBC has always strived to offer quality programming for all our audiences, and we think our news and drama programming reflects communities across the country."

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