Is the BBC biased?

The fact that both Scottish nationalist leftwingers and English Tory rightwingers regularly accuse it of being so is probably proof enough that it isn't. But here's another, slightly different question: is it too liberal?

Roger Mosey, the former BBC editorial director, believes it might be and in his memoirs, extracts of which have been published this week, says the corporation has sometimes been guilty of what he calls a liberal groupthink.

According to Mr Mosey, there is sometimes a failure in BBC news programmes to reflect a diverse range of views on issues such as immigration with staff working to a set of assumptions that would seem reasonable to their circle of friends and acquaintances but would not necessarily be reflected in all parts of the country. Debates about immigration, he says, sound like a pure liberal-defensive response rather than a quest for range and diversity in journalism.

It is hard to know how accurate a reflection of BBC newsrooms Mr Mosey's views are, but his experience is impressive. He's a former editor of the Today programme on Radio 4, he's a former controller of Radio 5 Live and he was the head of TV News. He should know what he's talking about.

However, in suggesting that the BBC is far too liberal on its news shows, we might miss the fact that the BBC is far too conservative in the rest of its programming. Mr Mosey cites one Ten O'Clock News package on immigration which included only one interview with a white person (presumably because the views of other non-ethnic minority people the reporter spoke to were too negative). But the rest of the BBC's coverage still seems to assume that its audience is mostly white and that it should reflect that.

Which is why the announcement this week of a major new season of programmes about India is such good, if surprising, news. According to Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and Four, the aim is to celebrate the rich and surprising wonders of India across an ambitious season of programmes.

"On BBC Two, we'll be taking viewers from the absolute highlights of India's natural world to the inner workings of one of the biggest rail hubs on the planet," she says, "as well as welcoming back the Goodness Gracious Me team for a special India-themed episode with special guest Art Malik."

Another of the highlights is a new programme from Sue Perkins which seeks to get behind the two big clichés of the city of Kolkata: its Black Hole and Mother Therera. In this version of the city, there are 250,000 homeless street kids hustling for a living but there are also wealthy young entrepreneurs who race their Ferraris and Lamborghinis down the streets of the New Town.

It all sounds very promising but the return of Goodness Gracious Me emphasises where the BBC is still failing. When that show, with its cast of British Asian comedians, was first shown in the late 1990s, it was groundbreaking, exciting (very funny) and unique. Fifteen years later, it is back and nothing much has changed: the schedules are still overwhelmingly white and a show with an Asian cast is still a rare and unusual thing.

The new series of Indian programmes may help, although it looks like too many of them feature white British presenters pointing and gawping at foreign lands. And there is still a long way to go before the BBC's channels are consistently and profoundly diverse.

Mr Mosey may be right in suggesting that a liberal groupthink has led to some views not being reflected on the BBC. But the much deeper problem is that across all its programme the BBC takes a deeply conservative approach to what it should cover and who should cover it. The problem, in other words, is that the BBC is not liberal enough.