UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn has accused the BBC Six O’Clock News of broadcasting an “extraordinarily biased” item about what would happen to food prices outside the EU and demanded the programme acknowledges its error.
Mr O’Flynn spoke out after discovering that a supposed impartial “expert” featured in the item is actually an EU-funded Jean Monnet professor – a fact kept from viewers.
“This was not just bad broadcasting, it was biased broadcasting. The whole item was fundamentally unbalanced. For a start the reporter, Emma Simpson, failed to explain the basic fact that the nature of the EU as a customs union means that food prices within it are higher than prevailing world prices.
“Even worse, Professor Catherine Barnard was then presented as an impartial expert from Cambridge University when in fact she is a Jean Monnet Chair of EU law and as such has a strong vested interest in a remain vote.
“She went through negative or neutral scenarios for consumers before Ms Simpson briefly raised the prospect with her of being able to cut tariffs on non-EU food imports. But they immediately agreed that to do this would be “tricky”.
“As the European Commission itself has put it, ‘the Jean Monnet Chairs form a powerful network of credible ambassadors for European integration’. Had viewers been told this they would at least have been free to decide whether they were hearing from a disinterested expert or from someone in receipt of EU research funding singing for her supper.
“The piece then moved on to former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy – a longstanding remain supporter – claimed without challenge that a series of dire consequences would follow Brexit, namely that ‘the pound will collapse, tariffs will come in on top, supply chains will be dislocated’.
“The only balancing voice was that of a small business owner at the end of the piece who supposed that things would be fine because EU countries would wish to keep exporting into our large consumer market.
“I am appalled by this blatantly biased item on the BBC’s flagship early evening news programme. I demand that this evening’s edition of the programme acknowledges that Prof Barnard’s vested interest should have been declared, that a balancing expert to make the case that lower food prices would follow should have been found and that the BBC addresses the other flaws in the piece too.”