BBC under fire from cardinal over news balance

The BBC has come under fire ahead of next week's UK visit by the Pope after the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh called the Corporation unprofessional, radically secular and socially liberal.

Mark Thompson: the BBC's director general
Mark Thompson: the BBC's director general

Cardinal Keith O’Brien said the BBC’s news and current affairs output is "utterly lacking" in professionalism and balance, a week after BBC director general Mark Thompson told the New Statesman there used to be a "massive left wing bias" at the Corporation.

In a report in The Sunday Times O’Brien said research into the BBC’s news coverage of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, and with an analysis of output by the Catholic Church, has revealed a "consistent anti-Christian institutional bias".

O’Brien also said he feared a documentary on the Catholic clerical abuse scandals, which coincides with the Pope’s visit, will amount to a "hatchet job" on the Vatican.

Last week Thompson came under fire after he was photographed entering Downing Street for a meeting about the BBC’s season of TV and radio programmes with a briefing note from BBC News director Helen Boaden.

In his pocket, and visible to the waiting telephoto lenses, was a letter outlining Andy Coulson's  – the Government's communications director – concerns for BBC reports to have the correct "context".

At the end of August Thompson used the keynote MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to attack BBC critics such as BSkyB and the national press.

The BBC had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.