More people consider the BBC an accurate and trustworthy source of TV news than any other channel in the UK, but the corporation it not rated as highly for impartiality as its Channel 4 counterpart, according to research by Ofcom.
Slightly more than six in 10 (62%) people who watched BBC News rated it highly for being “accurate and reliable” and 58% gave it a good rating for being “trustworthy” in polling conducted for Ofcom’s annual news consumption report. However, just under half (48%) rated the BBC highly for being “impartial and unbiased”.
The BBC is often accused of political bias and culture secretary John Whittingdale has said he wants accusations against the BBC to be independently assessed, possibly by regulator Ofcom.
Channel 4 News was the only TV news source rated to score highly on impartiality by more than half (51%) of those polled and came out only second to the BBC in accuracy and trustworthiness.
However, the polling may come as a surprise to commentators who have criticised Channel 4 News presenters and reporters for airing personal and often emotional responses to stories on platforms such as YouTube. Channel 4 News is governed by the same Ofcom rules on fairness, accuracy and impartiality as other broadcasters, but the regulator does not cover online activity.
Ofcom also found that Sky News was rated highly for hosting a range of views and “helping me make up my mind” by slightly more viewers than any other channel. However, it came out lower than the BBC and Channel 4 for accuracy and trustworthiness.
The picture differed online, however, with Sky’s sites and apps rated almost as highly as the BBC’s on accuracy and slightly higher on trustworthiness, with both outlets getting high ratings on the two measures from about 60%.
ITV had a smaller number of people rating it highly for accuracy, and trustworthiness than the BBC, Sky or Channel 4, however it performed slightly better than Sky on impartiality and beat Channel 4 on helping people make up their mind.
The channel has been ramping up its competition with the BBC on news coverage in recent months, poaching the BBC’s economics editor, Robert Peston, and Newsnight’s Allegra Stratton, and giving its News at Ten bulletin a makeover under new host Tom Bradby.
Channel 5 came out worst on all attributes in Ofcom’s polling, with around a third of its viewers rating it highly for accuracy, trustworthiness or impartiality, smaller proportions than for al-Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatari royal family.
The poll also looked at radio news, finding that on each of the five measures, more people rated BBC Radio highly than its commercial competitors.