Ex-BBC editor accuses TV channels of ‘childish’ election bias and fuelling ‘generalised hostility’

Former BBC editor David Elstein hit out at broadcasters' 'sense of entitlement'

Former BBC editor David Elstein hit out at broadcasters' 'sense of entitlement'

Former BBC editor David Elstein hit out at broadcasters’ ‘sense of entitlement’

Senior media figures including an ex-BBC editor have hit out at major broadcasters with claims of ‘childish’ election bias.

After Boris Johnson rejected an appeal by Andrew Neil to submit to an interview, the presenter delivered a monologue hitting out at the Prime Minister for his failure to ‘sit down with us’, questioning how Mr Johnson hoped to face down world leaders if he was too frightened to be interviewed

It comes after Channel 4 refused to let former Environment Secretary Michael Gove take Mr Johnson’s place in a climate debate – opting instead to use an ice sculpture bearing the Conservative Party logo. 

Former BBC editor David Elstein, who launched Channel 5, hit out at broadcasters’ ‘sense of entitlement’ and ‘generalised hostility’ to politicians. 

He told The Times: ‘I don’t think Andrew Neil helped himself by putting out such a public challenge because he made it inevitable that it would be turned down.’ 

Mr Elstein said Channel 4 News’ decision to use ice sculptures as replacements for the Prime Minister and Nigel Farage as ‘regrettable, foolish and childish’. 

Conservative peer and former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade of Yarmouth urged regulator Ofcom to look into the rules surrounding empty chairing. 

He claimed broadcasters were sounding hysterical, and said Neil’s words on Thursday were ‘pretty close to the edge’. 

In a withering put-down which has racked up over a million views online, Andrew Neil questioned how Mr Johnson hoped to face down strongmen on the world stage if he was too frightened to be interviewed

In a withering put-down which has racked up over a million views online, Andrew Neil questioned how Mr Johnson hoped to face down strongmen on the world stage if he was too frightened to be interviewed

In a withering put-down which has racked up over a million views online, Andrew Neil questioned how Mr Johnson hoped to face down strongmen on the world stage if he was too frightened to be interviewed

‘What’s coming through is an arrogance on the part of the journalists in the media, which I think is unwarranted, unnecessary and unseemly,’ Lord Grade said.

While campaigning Mr Johnson said that rival Uxbridge candidate Lord Buckethead wants to have a head-to-head debate, but he was not able to fit him in, emphasising that he cannot ‘accommodate everyone’. 

The BBC received a record 24,000 complaints over the past two weeks, many claiming political bias. 

A BBC spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.’ 

Since the start of the campaign Ofcom logged 1,781 complaints across all broadcasters.   

An ice sculpture is put in place for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the studio before the start of the Channel 4 News' General Election climate debate

An ice sculpture is put in place for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the studio before the start of the Channel 4 News' General Election climate debate

An ice sculpture is put in place for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the studio before the start of the Channel 4 News’ General Election climate debate

Channel 4 have been slammed for mistakenly captioning the footage of Boris Johnson. This is a grab of the wrongly captioned version, which mistakenly reports him saying 'people of colour'

Channel 4 have been slammed for mistakenly captioning the footage of Boris Johnson. This is a grab of the wrongly captioned version, which mistakenly reports him saying 'people of colour'

Channel 4 have been slammed for mistakenly captioning the footage of Boris Johnson. This is a grab of the wrongly captioned version, which mistakenly reports him saying ‘people of colour’

Former BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said broadcasters were reflecting public exasperation at politicians’ evasiveness – and suggested some journalists were being influenced by the approach taken by some US networks ‘calling out’ President Donald Trump. 

Channel 4 News yesterday posted footage of Mr Johnson speaking at a campaign rally, where he said: ‘I’m in favour of having people of talent come to this country. But I think we should have it democratically controlled.’

The broadcaster subtitled Mr Johnson as saying ‘people of colour’. 

A senior Conservative source said it was evidence of why it has been ‘impossible to co-operate’ with the broadcaster, who the source called ‘campaigners in this election’ who invented the most damaging things possible to ‘further their campaign against Brexit’. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at St Pancras Station, London, to board a train to go on the General Election campaign train in Kent, December 6

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at St Pancras Station, London, to board a train to go on the General Election campaign train in Kent, December 6

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at St Pancras Station, London, to board a train to go on the General Election campaign train in Kent, December 6

They claimed that this was on example of why many media organisations have collapsing audiences.

Channel 4 News said: ‘As soon as the mistake was pointed out we corrected the Twitter post and we sincerely apologise for the error.’

One Twitter user responded to the broadcaster’s apology: ‘And you wonder why the conservatives have an issue with you?’ 

Former head of political programming at the BBC Sir Robbie Gibb, who later became Theresa May’s communications chief, said Channel 4 News had an ‘institutional left-leaning bias’, and hit out at the network for not letting Michael Gove take Mr Johnson’s place in their climate debate. 

Ofcom recently rejected a Conservative complaint over Channel 4’s use of an ice sculpture to stand in for Mr Johnson during the debate on climate change.

The watchdog’s Election Committee said the prop ‘was not a representation of the Prime Minister personally’, and that ‘little editorial focus was given to it, either visually or in references made by the presenter or debate participants’.

The Conservatives complained that the broadcaster failed to allow the former environment secretary Mr Gove to be its representative for the debate, which saw party leaders face questions over how they would tackle climate change.

But the regulator rejected the Tories’ complaint.

The Tories initially lodged an urgent complaint about the intention to ’empty-chair’ the party in the hours before broadcast, Ofcom said, which the Tories said ‘failed to comply’ with impartiality obligations as a broadcaster.

The party described the ice sculpture as ‘a provocative partisan stunt’ in its submission to Ofcom, which it said would ‘constitute making a political opinion in its own right’ and ‘suggested wider issues of alleged bias by Channel 4’ against the Tories, Ofcom said.

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