>GUEST POST: Steve Morson on BBC Bias & TV Licence Tax
Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins – Greg_L-W.
Steve Morson writes in complaint to Sir Micheal Lyons Chairman of The BBC Trust in some detail concerning BBC Bias & TV Licence Tax
minded that Steve Morson was a UKip prospective parliamentary candidate for Bromsgrove
where the disgraced Julie Kirkbride was MP (well one of the homes she claimed expenses for!) this complaint written to Sir Michael Lyons in his capacity as Chairman of The BBC Trust, covers many of our feelings regarding the debased, befouled and biased BBC!
I strongly advise those of you with an interest in the future well being of these United kingdoms regardless of whether or not you support UKip or not to read this to the end! It is as apposite today as it was when written in 2009 – little changes in the BBC as it seems they are far too comfortable, with a tax funded monopoly to provide an honest and honourable service – it is widely noticed that they have massively dumbed down and pander to the gutter viewers, both in terms of language, content and style.
It would seem that the BBC is willing to hugely overpay their executives and offer an ever poorer quality backed by a number of safe backsides on their executive chairs to peddle neat propaganda and foul language as they have no need to compete being tax payert funded with a compulsory and hypothocated tax income unknown in any other area!
Sir Michael Lyons
29th August 2009
Dear Sir Michael,
With immediate effect, I am withholding my television licence fee, and as I intend to encourage many more people to do the same, I think it is rather important that you know why.
I realise that a single licence fee of £142.50 is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the £3.36 billion annual income from this state-enforced licence tax, and a fraction of a percentage point of the obscene £141 million in loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB), but I feel that it will become a story in it’s own right. I have joined the Facebook group “10 Million for No TV Licence”, which at the time of writing, has 537,400 members.
I doubt that you will be surprised to learn that I am a member and prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). I intend to campaign within my party to introduce the proposition that our party adopts the abolition of the TV licence tax as policy in its Culture, Media and Sport portfolio.
My letters of complaint through the BBC’s normal channels, plus those of my friends and colleagues, have become an object lesson in futility, which is why several of us have taken this step. In many cases, the responses of the BBC are shared amongst the wider membership – more for ridicule than illumination – and are held as examples of anfractuous reasoning and needless digressions. Please note that I do not expect a point-by-point refutation of this letter, as some or all of the points will already have been inadequately answered by your Complaints Department. The request I am making is for a fundamental shift in the practice of political broadcasting, including conformity with legislation, guidelines and commissioned reports, and the basic concept of fairness.
In my opinion, the BBC has, throughout both election periods stipulated below:
Broken its covenant to “educate, inform and entertain” its audience. Virtually all of the output of all television channels has been aptly described by Peter Hitchens as “mental slurry”, and the BBC is as guilty as anyone of producing it
Failed to provide adequate coverage or at least reflect the political views of people and interested parties in anything other than the three main political parties, i.e. Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat
Treated the United Kingdom Independence Party as a single-issue, extremist party and never once asked them to explain or discuss their range of policies that have been in place for more than a year in the context of a serious discussion (I exclude the bromidic BBC 1 “Question Time” programme)
Failed to take the concerns of many UKIP supporters over the accusations of unfair coverage in these election periods seriously
Failed to follow its own “Editorial Guidelines (Politics and Public Policy) – Broadcasting during elections”, viz: “…news judgements at election time are made within a framework of democratic debate [your bold emphasis] which ensures that due weight is given to hearing the views and examining and challenging the policies of all parties. Significant minor parties should also receive some network coverage during the campaign.”
By dint of points 2), 3) and 5), potentially and possibly interfered with, or at least attempted to affect, the outcome of two elections in contravention of its charter and UK laws
Wilfully failed to observe Bridcut Principles 1 to 5 (listed in Appendix A), failed to provide Principle 8, and seemingly couldn’t care about 11 or 12.
Underestimated the public need for radical change at the very heart of our political institutions, especially the House of Commons, by stifling all but mainstream opinion, and failed to reflect this view in a cross-party consensus
Committed a breach of section 5.5. (and possibly others) of The Ofcom Broadcasting Code (Oct. 2008), viz:
“Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service (listed above). This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole.”
Continued it’s trashing of the image and reputation of our Royal family and its place in the affections of many British people and our state’s constitution, by persistent and unchallenged trivialisation, negative reporting and imagery, and denigration through BBC radio and TV “comedy” output. As a case in point, a ‘brand new comedy series’ on BBC Radio 4 on 21st August at 6:30 pm aimed at mocking the weeks headlines started in the first episode with a non-story from the Times turned into a ‘joke’ at the expense of Prince Edward, within two minutes of starting.
The straw that ‘broke the camels back’ for me was the by-election in Norwich North on 23rd July. I drove to Norwich to volunteer in Glenn Tingle’s campaign, and saw first hand the disgraceful media bias our candidate had to tolerate. This was only part of a profound and unsubtle anti-UKIP broadcasting policy by television and radio programming to deny a voice to a legitimate and respectable party – the fourth largest in UK politics, and second largest in European politics. The BBC actively promoted the Green Party as an alternative to the two main parties, without even mentioning UKIP on several occasions in its reportage.
4th June elections
In the approaching weeks to the June 4th County Council and European Parliament elections, I noticed the following transgressions:-
Watching repeats of “Have I Got News For You” reminded me how, whenever UKIP is mentioned, it is merely for cheap ridicule and unfailingly we are represented by Robert Kilroy-Silk. The fact that he left the party in January 2005 doesn’t seem to trouble the programme makers or the BBC commissioning / editorial staff.
On 8th May this year on Radio 4’s Today programme, after listening, I felt compelled to e-mail this complaint:-
This morning, Nigel Farage MEP was interviewed by James Naughtie. Throughout the interview, he constantly shuffled papers, and on my stereo, it sounded so close to the microphone that it almost drowned Mr. Farage out.
This is not the first time; far from it. He seems to make a habit of doing this when his vocal intonation betrays the fact that he feels dislike / derision for the subject of his interview.
Please ask him to desist.
The reply (typical of its kind) included this utter irrelevance:
James is an extremely experienced and well respected presenter…
A view not shared by me or the blogosphere apparently.
In the 10:00 pm news on BBC 1 on or around 11th May, Nick Robinson –the BBC’s so-called Political Editor, was delivering a live piece to Huw Edwards in the studio from Westminster, about the MPs expenses scandal and its possible effects on the coming 4th June poll. He included this:-
…and when people are asked about how they might vote in the European elections, Labour is neck-and-neck at 19% with the U.K. Independence Party. A huge surge of support for them, that despite the fact that one of the MEPs they elected last time is currently in prison for being on benefit fraud [sic]. He was, I ought to say, expelled from the party.
This was clearly a reference to Ashley Mote, MEP. As many UKIP officials were tired of explaining even by then, Mote withheld vital information (a pending civil court case for housing benefit fraud) from the Party when he applied to us for candidature. This would have precluded him standing for any office in the party, much less a parliamentary seat. Ashley Mote was released from jail in November 2007 from his subsequent conviction, eighteen months before Mr. Robinson’s report. Nick Robinson was either wilfully and artfully propagandist, or woefully incompetent and outdated with his ‘facts’. In either case, is he a suitable journalist to hold the BBC’s most senior political reporting post, or was he merely ensuring that facts didn’t get in the way of a “good story”? Or obeying orders?
In BBC1’s Question Time in May, a woman asked if the MP expenses scandal would give a boost to “….extremist parties like the BNP?” David Dimbleby asked her “By extremist, do you also mean UKIP?” Why? By whose criteria (apart from Dimbleby’s) is UKIP considered “extremist”?
On 21st May edition of the same programme (from Salisbury), the normal complement of five ‘talking heads’ was bizarrely increased by the presence of Yasmin Alibi-Brown, the BBC’s favourite and ubiquitous rent-a-Leftie (and habitual interrupter), ensuring that Marta Andreasen’s contribution – as UKIP Treasurer – was kept to an absolute minimum.
In Michael Ball’s Radio 2 programme on a Sunday morning before 4th June, Peter Riddell of The Times was the guest reviewer of the Sunday newspapers. I have admired Peter’s insights, analysis and writing for many years until, when discussing MPs expenses and the 4th June, he stated that ‘this will give a boost to “….extremist parties like the BNP and UKIP”…’
On 3rd June, UKIP Leader Nigel Farage was interviewed by Emily Maitlis for BBC 2 Newsnight. It was shameful; hostile questioning is expected, but constant interruptions are not.
On polling day – 4th June – there was virtually no coverage of the story behind multiple cases of an attempt at electoral fraud by councils up and down the country who issued ballot papers folded to obscure the UKIP box at the bottom of the paper. Nigel Farage threatened to demand a rerun of the European elections and demanded the resignation of Elections Minister Michael Wills because of fears that our party had lost votes as its name fell below the crease – machine formed in many cases – of the folded ballot paper. The Electoral Commission had to issue urgent advice to polling stations and returning officers to hand out unfolded ballot papers to voters. I heard nothing in the BBC news of this. The BNP claim that they picked up many votes this way that would otherwise have gone to us.
After 4th June elections, I noticed the following:
In the BBC 1 Question Time programme on 11th June, UKIP was not mentioned once; not by the panel or the audience. For a programme that seeks to explore and discuss the week’s politics and current events, this is far more than extraordinary or coincidental. Presumably, this programme is recorded and then edited for broadcast, so only one of two scenarios is possible in this case; either a) no-one in that studio mentioned UKIP even once, or b) it was mentioned and then edited out. In the case of (a), this would be remarkable, as not only did UKIP poll second place in the European parliament elections, but were the only political party to increase their vote share on 2004 results. Surely someone would have raised this point? In addition, UKIP won several County Council seats, Labour no longer controlled a single county council in England and the Liberal Democrats reduced to one. Labour lost three quarters of their councillors in England and resulted with less than the Lib Dems. How could UKIP not have been mentioned?
However, if point 1) seems odd, what is absolutely peculiar is that Question Time was followed – as usual – by “This Week”, but we fared no better. If there was a place for discussion and deep political analysis, it was here (I was a regular viewer). The only time UKIP was mentioned was by Diane Abbott MP, but it was dismissive and in passing. That Andrew Neil did not mention UKIP is just unfathomable!
In the early hours of Monday 8th June as European ballot results were declared, Mike Nattrass MEP stated in his speech that he asked the BBC for a debate on the Lisbon Treaty with the Conservatives and other party representatives. Why was this cut from the edited highlights of his speech in the news?
Nikki Sinclaire, who was elected as an MEP for the West Midlands, was invited on to BBC1’s The Politics Show of 14th June for the West Midlands and an interview by Sarah Falkland. Before this, on the national segment, Ken Clarke, Conservative MP was interviewed live about public spending, debt, the NHS and Royal Mail. Ms. Sinclaire was prevented from seeing any monitors in her time in the studio, so it is perhaps just as well that she wasn’t questioned on his responses to Jon Sopel’s questions.
In an appallingly biased West Midlands segment on this programme, Susana Mendonça preceded an interview with “one of our regular commentators” – Prof. Mick Temple of Stafford University – with the fact that in the West Midlands, UKIP’s increase in vote share was the highest in the country. He said:
“I think UKIP have been very [his emphasis] lucky. Their performance has not been brilliant, they are themselves plagued by expenses scandals, and yet they picked up and extra seat in the West Midlands which quite frankly I don’t think they deserved! I think those Conservative voters who voted UKIP are going to come back to the Conservatives in a general election, but this is not a clear indication that the Conservatives will win the next general election; on the votes cast in the European and local elections, they’ll be lucky to scrape a working majority. That’s not good enough a year before an election.”
It is a political tenet of our age that many habitual voters of the three main parties vote UKIP in a European election because they trust us – almost more – than anyone else. This was mentioned to me, unprompted, by Conservatives at the county and European vote counts, even by Ms. Julie Kirkbride – my MP. It seems to be a revelation to Prof. Temple, who seems to be a professor of food science judging by these sour grapes and rotten tomatoes!
‘Deserved’? Why was no-one invited to offer a response to counter this ignorant nonsense, especially as Nikki Sinclaire MEP was sitting in the studio? If Mr. Temple had been on the campaign trail with UKIP activists in the region, he would have seen first-hand the enormous amount of hard work and personal investment made by ordinary people committed to bringing decent, honest change to British and European politics. It was rewarded in the vote share.
“A working majority”? Since the end of last year, polls have put the Conservatives at a minimum of 9%, and mostly this year in the 13 – 19% range, ahead of Labour. This by any measure would ensure a very healthy majority for the governing party.
Moreover, to which “expenses scandals” was he referring? Ashley Mote, as explained, was effectively nothing to do with UKIP, and Tom Wise is awaiting trial on such charges. Unless, like everyone else at the BBC and everyone they interview, he is presciently convinced of Mr. Wise’ guilt. Perhaps I’m alone in thinking it strange that I have never once heard mention on the BBC that the Conservative’s Chief Whip in the European parliament, Den Dover, was required to pay back £445,000 in “unaccountable expenditure”.
This same segment then went on to interview Michael Cashman, now the lone Labour MEP in the West Midlands. He said:
“UKIP as I said earlier, it’s a protest vote. They stand for one thing – pulling out. They were given an easy ride….the denunciation of all of the mainstream parties lifted UKIP and sadly, in other regions, gave oxygen and breath and support to the British National Party.”
More bilge. As I have pointed out in previous correspondence with your Complaints Department and on many weblog pages, if you starve UKIP of the oxygen of publicity, you may end up with some curious and undesirable election results. We were positively asphyxiated by the BBC, and lo and behold, Nick Griffin – BNP Leader – won an MEP seat in the North West.
(Every member of UKIP I have met detests the BNP as much as I, a fact of which I am immensely proud.) If UKIP had polled 17,000 more votes in that region, we would have taken that seat. I have heard people espouse the theory that effectively, the BBC actively campaigned for this BNP victory. Whatever anyone thinks of UKIP – propagandising and prejudices aside, we are nothing like the BNP; I speak as a three-year member. I also never tire of pointing out that in the 1980’s, the voices of Sinn Fein’s political leaders were dubbed by actors to – in theory – deny the IRA the ‘oxygen of publicity’. But at least their words got out.
Just as I thought this programme had cornered the market in ill-thought out nonsense and anti-UKIP propaganda with the previous two contributions, Susana Mendonça introduces an interview with Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat MEP with this line:
“ …the fourth placed Liberal Democrats, who keep their one MEP in the region, warn that UKIP’s success is bad news for the Midlands.”
Liz Lynne MEP said:
“If you don’t get MEPs going in there to work, then they can’t stand up for their constituents so I hope they will change their mind. I hope they will engage with the whole process to make sure we have more jobs coming into this region, more funding coming into this region. That is what the job of an MEP is.
I don’t think Mike Nattrass MEP needs to be reminded of that, as he is the only person – anywhere – to tell us that in October last year, the EU parliament approved a €97 million subsidy for bullfighting (after we banned foxhunting), and a €305 million subsidy for growing some of the most carcinogenic tobacco known to man (after we banned smoking in public places). He also tells us of lost contracts due to EU Legislation (e.g. for British trucks that went to Austria instead of LDV in his constituency – sealing their fate) and exorbitant conformity on-costs, the chicanery of the EU Budget, the obscenity of the Common Agricultural Policy, a collapsing parliament roof (Strasbourg – which could have killed 300 people if the EU parliament was sitting), and police assaults on legitimate protestors. He also warned us that the British and French were attempting to set up an EU Navy – to the alarm of British admirals. UKIP’s MEPs carry out sterling work, making sure that the unsustainable lunacy of the European Project is exposed, while MEPs of other parties slavishly toe the line and spuriously defend our membership.
How exactly was Liz Lynne describing “bad news” for ‘the Midlands’? East and West? Why does she think that they will do no work? Judging by results, Mike Nattrass works far harder at being an MEP than the others from whom I‘ve heard nothing. Whatsoever. (By the way, in a recent survey of the most effective MEPs in the European Parliament conducted by the Taxpayers Alliance, a UKIP MEP was rated 7th of 783 in a league table of effectiveness, with seven Labour MEPs – including Michael Cashman – in the bottom ten. And yet here he was berating UKIP.
Later in the national segment, Ken Clarke was again interviewed, this time on the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Again, this was unchallenged, even though Mr. Clarke is a passionate Europhile who is utterly opposed to any referendum by any government on any issue. This despite a poll on ConservativeHome weblog showing that 84% of Conservative party members want a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty even if it is ratified by all member states.
In all, an utterly disgraceful programme.
In the campaign up to the Norwich North by-election of 23rd July, I noticed the following:
Throughout BBC news coverage on TV and radio, several activists including myself, who had arrived from various parts of the country to help Glenn Tingle’s campaign, noticed that the only party mentioned other than the three main parties was the Green Party.
On BBC 2 Newsnight on Wednesday 15th July in a segment centred in Norwich, interviews were conducted with the three main party candidates. This was followed by an interview with someone from Pitman Training in Norwich. Then, UKIP candidate Glenn Tingle was
given a few seconds, but in a resulting montage graphic of four squares, what was shown? Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat candidates… and a classroom at Pitman Training! We assumed they also had a candidate in the election!
In the same programme, a BBC News East reporter went to a home for elderly people in Norwich, and interviewed four ladies. When he asked them who they would vote for, they said “Not the Conservatives or Labour!” (A moment’s silence). “The Greens?” asked the reporter! “Yes, the Greens. We think!” came the reply.
Whose decision was it to exclude Glenn Tingle, UKIP candidate, from a televised hustings programme only days before the election?
On the evening before my departure, I was told of the existence of a memorandum that was sent from senior BBC management in London to news chiefs at BBC East HQ in Norwich, to the effect that ‘the Green party were to be treated as the fourth party in the by-election coverage, and that UKIP was to be treated the same as the BNP’. Does (or did) such a memo exist, if so who originated this policy, who wrote it, to whom was it sent, who oversaw its compliance, and what do you intend to do about this gross breach of the BBC Charter? The bias we had seen in preceding days certainly seems to confirm its existence.
In an web article entitled “Five key lessons from Norwich North” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8167588.stm), BBC Chief Political Correspondent James Landale writes:
“Third, the anti-politics, anti-politician, expenses-fuelled vote did not coalesce around any particular party or candidate. The Greens, UKIP and the former diplomat Craig Murray picked up some expenses-driven protest votes but not enough to matter.”
Really? At 4,068 votes, this was UKIP’s strongest ever showing in a parliamentary election (which barely did credit to an excellent candidate), but less than 800 votes behind the Liberal Democrats. With fair media coverage, who knows what could have been achieved? The BBC’s much-touted and fancied Green Party came fifth. James Landale appears to reflect – accurately – the BBC view of the British political spectrum.
For the purpose of brevity, I’ve avoided traversing the minefield that is BBC radio “comedy”. It is an odd experience to hear an audience laughing when nothing funny had been said, but I am getting used to Marcus Brigstocke (and the 6:30pm Radio 4 slot) by now. I doubt I’ll ever get used to Sue Perkins who recently said: “UKIP. Tossers!” bizarrely out of context in a programme as unmemorable as it was un-entertaining.
In an article written for the Daily Telegraph on 24th July entitled “Anti-UKIP and pro-Green: the BBC at its most blatantly biased”, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP wrote:
Throughout the campaign, it ran programmes with Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green spokesmen…. But there was no basis to the claim that they were the fourth party, either nationally or locally. The last test of electoral feeling was June’s European election. The United Kingdom Independence Party won 13 seats and came second; the Greens won two seats and came fifth. In local elections on the same day, UKIP beat the Greens in most Norwich North wards.
Newsnight, Look East and Radio 4 all chose to disregard UKIP and treat the Greens as the main story. Three days before the poll, the BBC’s Eastern region TV held a hustings meeting for four candidates: Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green.
What was the result in the event? UKIP won 11.8 per cent of the vote ‐ comfortably ahead of the Greens and remarkably close to the LibDems (or “worryingly close” as I just heard a Radio 5 Live presenter put it).
One of the responses to Mr. Hannan’s blog (by ‘Patrick’) was this: On the Saturday before the Euro elections, Today ran a five minute attack on UKIP written by Mark Mardell, the BBC Europe editor. It was a total hatchet job with Mardell first telling us what the other parties in Brussels thought of UKIP (they did not like it) and then giving us his own opinion ‐ that UKIP were profoundly unserious golf club militants who had not been made prefects when they were at school.
I am not really a UKIP supporter, since I am rather to their left (although I did vote for them in protest after hearing that), but I made a formal complaint which was just brushed off.
The BBC’s Europe Editor should not tell us his negative opinions of any party in the days before an election ‐ so I am very pleased that Daniel Hannan as a conservative is making this post. A complaint from him to the BBC Trust, about the treatment of a party which he opposes, would carry a lot of weight. The BBC can just ignore the ordinary licence payer.
Like many people in UKIP, I constantly wonder if the soft loans from the EIB have had an effect on output. Although the BBC refuted the suggestion that there would be any effect on the editorial process at the time, one of the conditions of EIB loans is that the aims of the E.U. are promoted and furthered. I, for one, am bewildered as to why an organisation such as the BBC that raises £3.36 billion annually, with almost guaranteed supra-inflationary increases by state-mandated taxation, needs to borrow £141 million from such a source that places its editorial integrity under question. Looking at the quality of BBC output, I am mystified as to where it is spent.
Or is the BBC simply taking orders from 10, Downing Street? To expose the European Union for the fraudulent, inept, overweening, corrupt and devious mess that we think it is might set the British people to question why we are a member of such an organisation, its second largest funder, and cause people to actually question what has been done in their name and with their money but without their electoral mandate.
I turn to the Bridcut Report, “From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel”. It contains Twelve Guiding Principles to ensure impartiality, which I have reproduced in Appendix A. The BBC Trust webpage states the following:
The report is the result of a project first commissioned by the BBC Board of Governors in conjunction with BBC management in November 2005 to identify the challenges and risks to impartiality. The report has been fully endorsed by the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive Board and the BBC Journalism Board.
Endorsed it may have been, although this carries little significant meaning. It is a great shame that it was not ‘embraced’, or even adopted.
As much to blame for this situation are spineless and devious politicians. BBC funding appears to be a ‘third rail’ in British politics – ‘touch it and you die’, but this should not prevent the issue from being addressed. An iniquitous system such as the licence tax cannot be maintained, and this has been stated by commissioned reports, astute and intelligent individuals, and even James Murdoch at the recent McTaggart Lecture in the Edinburgh Television Festival.
Now that I have fully realised that I cannot trust BBC output on news and political coverage, I am reduced to watching one hour of television per week. It is a BBC programme – Dragon’s Den – a fascinating programme which is available on BBC iPlayer, obviating the need for a television. My views, in common with millions of people in this country, are not represented, so why should I pay the BBC licence tax? A programme that I always thought I would like to see made would be a ‘PPC’s only’ version of BBC1’s Question Time for the four main parties, with each party HQ providing a parliamentary candidate of their choice, just before the general election. Given the way the BBC currently reports politics, with its policy of deliberate exclusion of UKIP I do not see this happening.
I intend to use every technological means to achieve the objective I have stated. I will change my mind and resume payment when I detect a sea-change in attitudes towards political coverage on the BBC and it becomes fair and balanced in proportion to a range of electoral results and more representative of reasoned public opinion. In the meantime, I believe a full, independent public enquiry should be launched into the BBC coverage on TV and radio of both election periods, to investigate my charge in point 5) in Grievance above; hence the distribution list below.
I personally believe that British politics is changing profoundly. The effects of the internet, blogging, scandals, and a detachment of the political and media classes from the mood and opinions of the public are coming to a head. Between the general elections of 2001 and 2005, the Labour Party lost 64% of its membership. The number of new members joining UKIP increased our total membership by13% ….between April and July this year.
Steven W. Morson
Prospective parliamentary candidate
UKIP – Bromsgrove.
The Twelve Guiding Principles of the Bridcut report.
1. Impartiality is and should remain the hallmark of the BBC as the leading provider of information and entertainment in the United Kingdom, and as a pre-eminent broadcaster internationally. It is a legal requirement, but it should also be a source of pride.
2. Impartiality is an essential part of the BBC’s contract with its audience, which owns and funds the BBC. Because of that, the audience itself will often be a factor in determining impartiality.
3. Impartiality must continue to be applied to matters of party political or industrial controversy. But in today’s more diverse political, social and cultural landscape, it requires a wider and deeper application.
4. Impartiality involves breadth of view, and can be breached by omission. It is not necessarily to be found on the centre ground.
5. Impartiality is no excuse for insipid programming. It allows room for fair-minded, evidence-based judgments by senior journalists and documentary makers, and for controversial, passionate and polemical arguments by contributors and writers.
6. Impartiality applies across all BBC platforms and all types of programme. No genre is exempt. But the way it is applied and assessed will vary in different genres.
7. Impartiality is most obviously at risk in areas of sharp public controversy. But there is a less visible risk, demanding particular vigilance, when programmes purport to reflect a consensus for “the common good”, or become involved with campaigns.
8. Impartiality is often not easy. There is no template of wisdom which will eliminate fierce internal debate over difficult dilemmas. But the BBC’s journalistic expertise is an invaluable resource for all departments to draw on.
9. Impartiality can often be affected by the stance and experience of programme makers, who need constantly to examine and challenge their own assumptions.
10. Impartiality requires the BBC to examine its own institutional values, and to assess the effect they have on its audiences.
11. Impartiality is a process, about which the BBC should be honest and transparent with its audience: this should permit greater boldness in its programming decisions. But impartiality can never be fully achieved to everyone’s satisfaction: the BBC should not be defensive about this but ready to acknowledge and correct significant breaches as and when they occur.
12. Impartiality is required of everyone involved in output. It applies as much to the most junior researcher as it does to the director general. But editors and executive producers must give a strong lead to their teams. They must ensure that the impartiality process begins at the conception of a programme and lasts throughout production: if left until the approval stage, it is usually too late.
Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins
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