More than 50 peers blast 'unbalanced and prejudiced' C4 news report
More than 50 peers blast ‘unbalanced and prejudiced’ Channel 4 news report on allegations against the equalities watchdog’s embattled chairman Baroness Falkner
- Fifty-four peers slammed the Channel 4 show for launching ‘irresponsible attack’
- The group has sent a scathing letter of complaint to both Channel 4 and Ofcom
More than 50 peers have accused Channel 4 of delivering an ‘unbalanced and prejudiced’ news report covering allegations against the equalities watchdog’s embattled chairman.
The parliamentarians strongly ‘condemned’ the programme for launching an ‘irresponsible attack’ against Baroness Kishwer Falkner and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
In a scathing letter to Ofcom and Channel 4, they accused the programme this week of being ‘complicit’ in an attempt by staff to oust the chairman and undermine the board.
‘In our opinion, viewers were fed a piece so unbalanced as to potentially reach the point of prejudice,’ they said.
The peers also slammed Channel 4 for ‘relaying a stream of emotive, one-sided and unsubstantiated statements’ against Baroness Falkner who is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
The parliamentarians strongly ‘condemned’ the programme for launching an ‘irresponsible attack’ against Baroness Kishwer Falkner (pictured) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
A spokesperson for Channel 4 News last night said it ‘stands by’ its reporting.
It comes just days after the Mail revealed that the chair was facing a KC-led probe prompted by a dossier of more than 40 complaints alleging discrimination, transphobia and bullying.
Staff are accused of taking aim at Baroness Falkner over her stance on trans issues after she backed legal reforms guarding the rights of biological women in single sex-spaces and sports.
Critics have already accused Channel 4 of Left-wing bias over Tuesday’s reporting on what it said was evidence of a toxic culture at the EHRC and the ‘consternation’ at Baroness Falkner’s leadership.
It used actors and silhouettes to quote a number of anonymous current and former staff with one saying the situation was ‘heart-breaking’ and another saying staff were often left in tears.
The programme also quoted from documents saying that the chairman’s ‘unacceptable behaviour’ had ‘become normalised’ while staff were bullied.
Critics have already accused Channel 4 of Left-wing bias over Tuesday’s reporting on what it said was evidence of a toxic culture at the EHRC and the ‘consternation’ at Baroness Falkner’s leadership
Now, a group of 54 peers has made a formal complaint to Ofcom claiming Channel 4 News failed to properly represent any ‘opposing views’ as no one supportive of the cross-bench peer was featured.
In the damning letter, the parliamentarians said: ‘As a cross party group of peers we write in the strongest terms to condemn the piece.
‘In the context of an ongoing investigation, Channel 4’s intervention breached both Section 5 of the Broadcasting Code (Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy) and Section 7 (Fairness).
The letter recognised that the current situation at EHRC was likely to be ‘toxic’ due to the sensitive debate regarding women’s rights, sex and gender.
But it continued that given the ‘fiercely held views’, a national broadcaster should ‘at least attempt to provide both sides of the argument’.
‘Instead, in our opinion, viewers were fed a piece so unbalanced as to potentially reach the point of prejudice.
‘Channel 4 will no doubt try and defend themselves by saying that they spoke to more than 20 former and current members of staff; yet this means little when all these members of staff appeared to hold exactly the same opinions,’ it said.
The programme, which has previously been accused of Left-wing bias, also featured trans quiz show contestant Emma Laslett and liberal Tory MP Caroline Nokes who both took aim at the chairman.
Miss Laslett described an allegation that the chair referred to her as a ‘bloke in lipstick’ during a board meeting and suggested Baroness Falkner was ‘not fit for the job’.
However, the programme failed to mention that insiders insist that the remark was taken out of context and the chair was simply highlighting the abuse trans people face on social media.
The letter also pointed out that the peers had learnt that none of the EHRC Commissioners were approached for comment.
It said Channel 4 failed to provide ‘any proper representation of opposing points of view on either the issues more generally or the very serious allegations made against Baroness Falkner’.
The peers added that the programme glossed over the ‘immense amount of abuse’ the baroness has been subjected to over the contentious issue.
It said examples of her ordeal – include her being called a Nazi and scum online – are in the public domain and ‘could have been reported to provide some balance.’
They also cited protests by masked trans activist who left urine outside the EHRC building.
‘To make no mention of this, while relaying a stream of emotive, one-sided and unsubstantiated statements amounts to nothing more than an irresponsible attack on an organisation that is seeking to uphold the rights of all in our society, not just the rights of one special interest group,’ they wrote.
The letter concluded that rather than contributing to a sensible on the issues the piece ‘was complicit in promulgating the views of a small group of staff who are clearly seeking to undermine the board and the Chair who has our full support.’
Numerous campaign groups are also believed to have complained to Ofcom including LGB Alliance, who said the allegations went unchallenged.
In a letter LGB Alliance complained that a high LGBT staff turnover was presented without explaining ‘that those who ‘identify’ as LGBT+ do not represent all gays and lesbians’.
LGB Alliance’s letter to Ofcom reportedly said: ‘No one from any of the various LGB, lesbian, or gay men’s groups was asked to comment. The item seemed more like a deliberate hit job than serious news coverage.’
The letter was signed by a number of cross-party peers many of whom said they were horrified at the targeting of Baroness Falkner.
Former equalities minister, Baroness Stedman Scott said: ‘I know at first-hand how Baroness Falkner was always fair, balanced and professional.
‘She is a woman of utmost integrity and many people, including House of Lords colleagues, are outraged by the way she is being singled out in this way..’ While Lord Shinkwin said he was ‘saddened by the concerted character assassination’ against her.
Lord Strasberger added that the chairman was targeted for ‘shaking up the EHRC’ and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne said she was being subjected ‘a witch hunt’ for speaking up for women.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 News said: ‘We stand by our reporting of the independent investigation into Lady Falkner and the culture at the EHRC.
‘Lady Falkner was given the opportunity to appear on the programme and that invitation remains open.’
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