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Beebwatch was the name of a column which ran in the Daily Telegraph three times a week for two months in late 2003. 26 articles were printed between early September and early November that year, each claiming to show evidence of a left-wing bias in the BBC’s output. Although the author of the articles was not declared at the time, they were subsequently revealed to have been written by Damian Thompson, [1] a conservative British journalist best known for being editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald.

The column was introduced in an article by the then editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore, on 9 September 2003. In this introductory piece, Moore conceded that the BBC was probably not biased against the Conservative Party, as is often alleged by right-wingers, but argued that its ‘mental assumptions are those of the fairly soft Left.’ He continued:

They are that American power is a bad thing, whereas the UN is good, that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel isn't, that the war in Iraq was wrong, that the European Union is a good thing and that people who criticise it are "xenophobic", that racism is the worst of all sins, that abortion is good and capital punishment is bad, that too many people are in prison, that a preference for heterosexual marriage over other arrangements is "judgmental", that environmentalists are public-spirited and "big business" is not... [2]

Moore wrote that the Beebwatch column would ‘offer brief reports culled from the airwaves’ and would be ‘helped in gathering information by Minotaur, a media monitoring unit that will study all relevant bits of the BBC output, television, radio and electronic.’ [3]

Minotaur Media Tracking was a right-wing media monitoring group directed and co-owned by Kathy Gyngell and David Keighley, [4] the widow and close friend respectively of Thatcher’s favourite television executive, the late Bruce Gyngell. [5] It had already produced reports for the Eurosceptic think-tank Global Britain and the Centre for Policy Studies.

In his introductory article, Moore included the following critique as an example of what would follow:

And here is the much-respected BBC world affairs editor, John Simpson, analysing American policy towards Libya last week as moves to end sanctions approached culmination:

John Humphrys: "Has there been a real fear in Libya that the Americans would attack them?"

John Simpson: "Very strong indeed. You see, they really suit the pattern that George W Bush has established - it's a weak country with a bad reputation. Now, most people don't realise it's weak; it's a bit like Iraq in that sense, [an] easy target to hit if you know what's really going on, but it looks big if you just watch the morning television programmes in the United States: built up as something terrible, whereas in fact it's small, weak, and it can't do anything very much to defend itself. That's why President Reagan hit it so hard in 1986, because he knew he could get away with it, and I don't believe that even the Americans thought that it was a major sponsor of state terrorism..."

Note a) the assumption of the stupidity of the American public; b) the assumption of the dishonesty of US Republican administrations; c) the instrusion of an extraneous point about Iraq; d) the condescension of the phrase "even the Americans"; e) the failure to spend time on the behaviour of Libya itself, the country responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. In short, a locus classicus of BBC bias. You can find one virtually every day. [6]


  1. Damian Thompson, ‘Beebwatch is closing down - but we are still watching you’, Daily Telegraph, 7 November 2003
  2. Charles Moore, ‘Time to watch the BBC bias that costs each of us £116 a year’, Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2003
  3. Charles Moore, ‘Time to watch the BBC bias that costs each of us £116 a year’, Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2003
  4. Minotaur Media Tracking Ltd, Annual Returns made up to 8 July 2005
  5. Former TV-am boss dies’, BBC News Online, 8 September, 2000
  6. Charles Moore, ‘Time to watch the BBC bias that costs each of us £116 a year’, Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2003