Britain’s BBC and Channel 4 have been accused of being the driving force behind “hysterical” rows with politicians and warned against breaching impartiality in light of upcoming general elections following Channel 4’s fake smears about Boris Johnson’s “racist” comments and Andrew Neil’s on-air “empty chair” challenge.
Speaking to The Times, senior media figures slammed the UK’s most prominent broadcasters for attempting to embarrass leaders into granting interviews, with former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade of Yarmouth calling Neil’s Thursday monologue “pretty close to the edge” and saying broadcasters’ recent reactions have generally sounded “hysterical”.
“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 to the media.
A former BBC editor who launched Channel 5 and Portobello Films, executive producer David Elstein, also criticised networks’ “generalised hostility” to politicians following Neil’s viral appeal to Johnson.
“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”, David Elstein told The Times.
On Thursday, BBC journalist Andrew Neil delivered a direct challenge to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an interview after the latter’s apparent refusal, saying that it was “not too late” for the Conservative leader to discuss his general election pledges on prime-time TV.
“Critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy”, Andrew Neil said in a filmed monologue while questioning Boris Johnson’s credibility with regard to NHS funding, promises of new hospitals, and other election claims.
Neil’s “empty chair” challenge has gone viral on social media and attracted a flurry of comments, with some users even alleging that the incident “murdered” Johnson live. Others, however, condemned the BBC journalist’s dramatic stance.
OH MY GOD. Andrew Neil finally offers Boris Johnson an ultimatum and murders him live on TV pic.twitter.com/Gp0TZwh6w1— Hasan Patel 🌹 (@CorbynistaTeen) December 5, 2019
Really don’t see the point of the TV interviews and leader debates. They’re more about the interviewees and presenters who spend all the time butting in. The questions are longer than the allowed responses. Total waste of air time !! 👀🤷♂️✖️— southwestgooner (@southwestgooner) December 5, 2019
Or may be he has given him the exam questions to prepare well and nail the interview now— Ali (@allawee_LFC) December 5, 2019
Channel 4 News was also recently forced to issue a public apology after spreading fake smears about Boris Johnson allegedly making racist comments during a rally in Kent.
Johnson said during the gathering that he was “in favour of having people of talent come to this country but I think we should have it democratically controlled”. However, in a video posted on its Twitter account, Channel 4 News substituted Johnson’s “people of talent” phrase with “people of colour”. The tweet has since been deleted, after the mistake was pointed out to Channel 4 News’ bosses, who were forced to issue the public apology for the incident.
“As soon as the mistake was pointed out we corrected the Twitter post and we sincerely apologise for the error”, a channel representative said.
Earlier today Channel 4 News tweeted in error a subtitled clip of Boris Johnson making a speech, which reported him using the phrase "people of colour" in reference to immigration. The Prime Minister had in fact said he wanted "people of talent" to come to the UK. pic.twitter.com/wEpXGsPtg3— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) December 6, 2019
Snap elections will take place on 12 December in the UK, with the main contenders being the Conservative and Labour parties. The BBC has reportedly been inundated with thousands of complaints over its alleged political bias and unfavourable reporting regarding certain candidates since the start of the election campaign. UK regulatory broadcasting authority Ofcom has also received thousands of complaints about unfair reporting and has been called upon to review “empty chairing” interviews.