BBC and Channel 4 slammed for “hysterical” election bias over fake smears that Boris Johnson made a racist comment on camera.
The broadcasters have been accused of letting a “sense of entitlement” drive “hysterical” rows with politicians over the race blunder and Andrew Neil’s on-air challenge to Mr Johnson for an interview.
Senior media figures warned that broadcasters risked breaching their obligation to remain impartial during the election by attempting to embarrass leaders into granting interviews.
It comes after Neil challenged Mr Johnson for second time and empty chaired him live on TV.
The BBC rottweiler fired the challenge at the Prime Minister during his interview with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
In a clip viewed six million times on social media, the BBC presenter used an empty chair to emphasise the fact that the PM was refusing to appear.
The Tories hit back by saying that the format was “tired and broken”.
Mr Johnson tonight blasted Jeremy Corbyn for a “failure of leadership” over Brexit in their final live BBC debate – with just a week to go until polling day.
‘TIRED AND BROKEN’
But their clash was overshadowed by the row over coverage, which was the latest in a series of disputes between broadcasters, politicians and activists that have resulted in record numbers of complaints of bias.
Chanel 4 was forced to offer a grovelling apology for fake smears that Mr Johnson made a racist comment on camera.
Broadcasting bosses claimed the PM said “people of colour” had to be controlled when coming into Britain – but in fact he had said “people of talent”.
Boris said: “I’m in favour of having people of talent come to this country but I think we should have it democratically controlled.”
But a clip of Mr Johnson making the comments at a rally in Kent – with false subtitles – was posted on the channel’s Twitter account and quickly attracted furious tweets bashing the Tory boss.
However, Channel 4 chiefs made a snivelling apology.
A spokesman said: “Boris Johnson says “people of talent” not “people of colour.”
“Our earlier tweet was a mistake. We misheard and we apologise.”
Cabinet minister Jake Berry accused Channel 4 of publishing an “outrageous smear”.
David Elstein, the former BBC editor who launched Channel 5, criticised broadcasters’ sense of entitlement and “generalised hostility” to politicians.
He said: “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.”
‘CLOSE TO THE EDGE’
Lord Grade of Yarmouth, the former BBC and ITV chairman, said that broadcasters were sounding hysterical and urged Ofcom to review rules around empty chairing.
He said that Neil’s monologue on Thursday was “pretty close to the edge”.
The lord added: “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 Buckethead added: “We cannot accommodate everyone. There’s a guy called Lord Buckethead who wants to have a
head-to-head debate. Unfortunately I am not able to fit him in.”
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The Beeb was bombarded with a record 24,000 complaints in the past fortnight, many about political bias.
Ofcom has logged a further 1,781 complaints across all broadcasters since the start of the campaign.
A BBC spokesman said: “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.”
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