Charlie Walsham

How the BBC lost its way on Covid

I’ve seen from the inside how the corporation has failed in its reporting on the pandemic

(Photo: iStock)

I have been a BBC journalist for many years, and in that time I have been committed to impartiality and the corporation’s Reithian values to inform and educate. My despair about the BBC’s one-sided coverage of the pandemic though has been steadily growing for some time. And in early December, as I listened to a BBC radio broadcast, I felt the corporation reach a new low.

During a morning phone-in show on 5Live the topic of discussion was Covid jabs and whether they should be mandated, or if punitive action should be taken against those who refuse them, such as imposing lockdowns on the unvaccinated. Setting aside the fact that these authoritarian measures are now considered a matter for breezy debate, I at least expected a balanced discussion.

This was wishful thinking on my part, as ‘Michael from Birmingham’ – a caller – was about to find out. Michael told the host he hadn’t been vaccinated because he didn’t trust ‘the data’ and cited historic incidents of documented corporate malfeasance by pharmaceutical giants to explain why he was concerned. Now you may disagree with Michael, or think him completely deluded, but he was still a person who had genuine fears about the vaccine and its safety. Yet instead of holding a reasoned debate with his concerned caller, the host immediately lost his temper, talked over Michael, implied he was a flat-earther and then muted him entirely.

It was an interaction that goes to the very heart of the dismal failure of BBC News. I have been working at BBC News throughout the Covid era and have witnessed how the insatiable demands of the 24-hour news cycle have exacerbated a serious and protracted crisis. I have also seen how any attempt at balance has been abandoned in favour of supporting and promoting Covid restrictions.

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