Friday 1 July 2022

“BBC delivers progress on Impartiality Plan” - a review

BBC delivers progress on Impartiality Plan, the BBC Media Centre boldly asserted today.

The BBC says it has updated its whistleblowing policy and how it handles fast-tracked complaints. Given past horrors over the treatment of whistleblowers [e.g. Mark Killick and Liz MacKean] the former needed close attention, and Ofcom has expressed dissatisfaction with the BBC about the latter. 

The BBC has appointed two External Editorial Experts. That's a step forward, given that the BBC has long been reluctant to having outsiders looking at bias, with a Tubbs and Edward-like resistance to 'non-locals' at the corporation. The two appointees in question - Caroline Daniel and Michael Prescott -  held senior rolls at the FT and Sunday Times respectively. 

The first thematic review, into BBC taxation and public spending output, led by Sir Andrew Dilnot and Michael Blastland, is still going on and due to be published this year. Will it show that the BBC thinks public spending is the solution to most of life's problems?

The content reviews remain internal and will look at editorial standards and culture including impartiality, freedom of expression, diversity of voices, accuracy, fairness and trust. The first ones will look at BBC Breakfast, Countryfile and the English language morning radio news programmes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. “These selections have not been made because of particular impartiality concerns,” the BBC insists. The Daily Telegraph, however, cites sources “acknowledging that Countryfile was a show which regularly prompted complaints,” so I'm not convinced that either that programme or BBC Breakfast [with its co-presenters who mock our country's flag] was innocently chosen.

Over 24,000 BBC people have received impartiality training, and all newcomers will complete impartiality training. I must admit I'd have thought impartiality training would have been standard at the BBC for years rather than just up-and-running since last year.

BBC staff surveys looked at impartiality for the first time. 94% of staff from across the BBC who took part said they understood why impartiality is important. You do wonder about the remaining 6% though who don't think impartiality is important. What BBC jobs are they in?

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