BBC Director General Tim Davie has made his second mega impartiality intervention since taking over a year ago as the review set up in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal reports back.
Revealed this morning as a 10-point plan “focused on impartiality, editorial standards and whistleblowing”, the BBC will now regularly examine its TV content, including documentaries, factual and children’s, to make sure shows are meeting impartiality standards and reflecting a range of viewpoints.
Starting with coverage of ‘UK public spending and taxation’, the plan will also see regular reviews conducted into key areas of public debate covered by BBC News to ensure “a breadth of voices and viewpoints are being reflected”.
The BBC’s editorial policy team will be strengthened to support programme makers and a new editorial whistleblowing policy will be formed.
The BBC Board will monitor impartiality metrics and impartiality training will be rolled out to thousands more BBC staff and freelancers.
Today’s plan was driven by the recommendations from the Serota Review, which was set up independently in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal. The disgraced Bashir tricked Princess Diana 25 years ago into giving a BBC News interview and his actions proved hugely embarrassing for senior BBC staff. Nick Serota, who led the review, sits on the BBC Board as a non-executive.
That review delivered six recommendations, including that the BBC ensures “best practice to promote frank and open discussion of editorial values and culture” and does more in terms of training.
It called for the programme of thematic reviews to be put in place, the supporting of a culture where staff feel comfortable raising concerns, simple procedures for editorial standards investigations and stronger governance and transparency.
Today’s impartiality updates will “give more space to programming that actively explores different points of view,” according to Davie, who was writing in this morning’s Daily Telegraph.
“In this country we have been justifiably proud of the standards of our national debate,” he added.
“We must not allow fear to corrode those standards and the BBC has an important role to play. It is fundamental to our public service duty to ensure all voices and views across every part of the UK are heard.”
Impartiality has been something of an obsession for Davie since he joined 12 months ago and his first impartiality diktat, delivered towards the end of last year, introduced strict new guidelines for BBC News staff on social media and in public life.
That diktat caused controversy after LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff raised concerns these guidelines would prevent them from attending events such as Pride marches and Black Lives Matter protests.
Davie’s focus on impartiality is driven by pressure from the UK government. Newly-appointed culture secretary Nadine Dorries has criticised the BBC for being subject to “groupthink” and urged it to better represent working class people in the country.
The situation has only been worsened by reports of Davie’s vetoing of the appointment of diversity campaigner Marcus Ryder to a senior BBC News role and the similar rumoured “blocking” of another senior BBC News boss, Jess Brammar, who has been critical of the UK government in the past. Brammar has now started working for the BBC.
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