Farmers across the country have praised the BBC for its ‘Focus on Farming’ coverage this week, in stark contrast to the criticism the broadcaster received for its recent ‘anti-meat’ reporting on climate change.
As part of the Focus on Farming package, the BBC has been covering agriculture-related issues across all its platforms this week, looking at how farmers are mitigating climate change and looking after the environment, new agri-tech and women in farming.
On Tuesday (August 20), Farmers Guardian’s chief reporter, Abi Kay, took part in a discussion on how Brexit could affect agriculture.
Though the broadcaster’s decision to focus on farming for a week was welcomed, some farmers took to social media to complain about the studio set, which was dressed with hay bales, an antique hay cart and plastic animals.
Harry Mitchell, agriculture marketing manager at British Sugar, tweeted: “Great to see BBC Breakfast featuring farming issues, but why old fashioned bucket and cart props?
“We are talking forward-thinking issues against a backdrop which is decades old and it sends the wrong message about our progressive industry.”
The BBC’s Focus on Farming week was held just a few days after the broadcaster was slammed by farm groups for pushing an anti-meat agenda in its coverage of a UN report on climate change.
At the time, NFU president Minette Batters hit out at several journalists for targeting farmers who feel ‘isolated and terrorised’.
Now Heather Hancock, who reviewed bias and impartiality in the BBC’s coverage of rural affairs for the BBC Trust in 2014, has hit out at the broadcaster for failing to make any progress since she published her report.
In a statement, she said: “Boiling down complicated rural issues to polarised ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ arguments can indeed put impartiality at risk.
“What is more, audiences do not like it – they want to understand the underlying issues.
“The BBC employs some of the best rural and farming journalists in the country – people like Charlotte Smith, Anna Hill, Tom Heap.
“They have the credibility and the expertise to tackle complex farming and rural issues, on the BBC’s flagship current affairs and news programmes.
“It is high time this happened.”