BBC presenters must do more to challenge politicians’ statistics, report says

An independent report commissioned by the BBC Trust has concluded that BBC presenters must do more to challenge erroneous and misleading statistics used by politicians

BBC presenters must do more to challenge statistics, an independent report has found.

The BBC Trust has commissioned an ‘impartiality’ review into how the corporation presents facts and figures in its news stories.

It said its presenters should be in a better position to challenge numbers, especially when interviewing guests.

BBC Broadcasting House (BBC Pictures)
BBC Broadcasting House (BBC Pictures)


“We came across many examples where statistics were used erroneously or in misleading ways by guests on programmes and were not challenged by presenters,” the report said.

And it added audiences were unsatisfied with statistical claims being pitched against one another in a ‘he said, she said’ format ‘without providing any kind of ‘refereeing’ voice’.

It also said the BBC must do more to challenge Government statistics ‘where necessary’ before airing them, to ensure ‘the impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of political affairs is not affected’.

Former prime minister David Cameron (Steve Parsons/PA)
David Cameron (Steve Parsons/PA)


It added that content analysis pointed to the high number of statistics from political figures – especially Conservative politicians – on the BBC.

There is an ‘especially high number of political figures providing statistical information on the BBC… and Conservative politicians represented nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of these statistical references’.

Cardiff University, which analysed BBC coverage last winter, said it ‘shows a high dependence on the governing party’.

The report said: “It is reasonable to expect the BBC to cover statements which the UK or devolved governments make.

“However… it does make it vital that those statements are challenged where necessary so that the impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of political affairs is not affected.”


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