Carys Roberts, executive director of IPPR responds to the BBC's review assessing whether due impartiality is being achieved across its coverage of taxation and public spending, and whether a breadth of voices and viewpoints are being reflected
As the national broadcaster, the BBC's role as a trusted news source is critical to the functioning of our democracy. It's vital that the BBC is evidence-based and reflects well-informed debate in its coverage, and leads the way across the media sector.
At times, it has fallen short of this ideal, in particular in how its reporters have discussed economic policy and government spending. That's why in 2020 I joined other economists in challenging the BBC on its use of the household analogy' to describe public finances, and in its likening of government borrowing to a credit card. These metaphors are inaccurate, do not reflect current economic debate, and mislead the public, with an outsized impact on our politics.
This authoritative review recognises that the BBC has, at times, fallen short of providing broad impartiality in its coverage of fiscal policy, and failed to reveal the political choices being made.
The BBC's upcoming action plan must prioritise a more diverse set of credible economic perspectives in its coverage, ensuring that those reporting on the issues have a good understanding of them, as well as considered use of language to describe and explain economic events. Only by doing so will the BBC be able to perform its function of aiding public understanding and holding politicians to account.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The BBC internal review was launched after 24 leading economists wrote to protest against the "inappropriate" use of household analogies during coverage of Chancellor's 2020 autumn spending statement, and more broadly across the BBC's news output. Carys Roberts was among its signatories.
- IPPR is the UK's pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain's only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org