The Countryside Alliance has submitted a formal complaint to the BBC over biased coverage on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme.
On 22nd May, Farming Today broadcast an interview with the Managing Director of the British Game Alliance, a new organisation aiming to stimulate the game meat market and introduce enforceable standards into game shooting to give the consumer peace of mind that the game they are buying is sustainable sourced. Despite this being a good news story for the countryside, the interview was immediately followed by a response from an anti-shooting activist from the League Against Cruel Sports.
The Alliance has highlighted two serious concerns about this programme. Firstly, the segment on the British Game Alliance was the only one in which an opposing voice was heard. The other subjects covered in the programme were pig tail docking and neonicotinoid pesticides, both of which are arguably more controversial than improved marketing and standards for game meat. Both of those subjects were addressed by one speaker, with no input from vegan activists or green anti-pesticide campaigners.
Furthermore, having decided to find a dissenting voice to talk about the BGA, Farming Today chose to invite comment from an activist from an organisation that is fundamentally opposed to the existence of game shooting. The BBC Trust’s 2014 Impartiality Review identified that the BBC over-relies on a small set of protest groups to provide comment on rural issues, turning all rural topics into a binary argument rather than helping listeners understand the subject. Four years later Farming Today did precisely that, making the story of the BGA launch all about protest and conflict rather than exploring the underlying issues.
The Alliance complaint highlights the continued problems with rural coverage, and the clear bias in applying this approach to shooting issues and not other rural subjects.
Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “We are increasingly concerned about the BBC’s handling of a number of rural issues and the widening disconnect between the BBC and rural communities. The 2014 BBC Trust rural review found a “gulf in understanding between the BBC and a significant section of the rural community” and that situation has only got worse in the last 4 years. The BBC’s charter requires the corporation to represent all the communities of the United Kingdom, and yet it is very clear that a large proportion of the people in countryside do not feel that the BBC reflects their lives. We are seeking meetings with the BBC to discuss what are clearly systemic issues.”