HEADLINES

Monday, June 18, 2007

NCF Vindicated on BBC Liberal Consensus

Not to blow our own trumpet too loudly, but it is gratifying to open this morning's Times and discover we've been right all along...

June 18, 2007

BBC is urged to break free from the 'liberal concensus'
Dan Sabbagh, Media Editor

BBC bosses must break free from a straitjacket of political correctness, a highly critical report of the public broadcaster’s impartiality will conclude.

The 80-page inquiry will report today that the BBC’s drama, entertainment and factual output is dominated by a liberal consensus that frequently fails to recognise that impartial coverage is best served by espousing a diversity of views.

BBC coverage of the Live8 concert and the Make Poverty History campaign will be highlighted for criticism. It is accused of surrendering its objectivity to Bob Geldof, the campaigner and musician, and Richard Curtis, the writer of The Vicar of Dibley, during 2005.

The central criticism is that the BBC failed to highlight any alternative views to the campaign, which was highly politicised in its demands for a mass protest at the Gleneagles G8 summit and for debt relief for developing countries.

The document singles out two examples of programming that flouted BBC impartiality. It criticises, but does not name, Lorraine Heggessey, the former Controller of BBC One, for agreeing to show an episode of The Vicar of Dibley this year that featured a one-minute clip of the Make Poverty History video. BBC rules state that the corporation must not endorse campaigns other than Children in Need and Comic Relief.

There is criticism of the decision to transmit programmes about the making of Live8, towards the end of 2005, because the documentary was made by Brook Lapping, a production company owned by Ten Alps, in which Geldof is shareholder and company director. This relationship was not highlighted in the programme.

All campaigns, even those such as Make Poverty History, which was endorsed by all political parties, should be subject to critical scrutiny, the report said.

It was written by John Bridcut, an independent producer, and approved by a steering group led by Richard Tait, a BBC trustee and a former editor-in-chief of ITN. It included Mark Byford, the BBC Deputy Director-General, Helen Boaden, the head of news, and Alan Yentob, the creative director.

It is expected that the 12 conclusions will be implemented, and that the BBC will acknowledge some failings in its coverage of the Make Poverty History campaign and Live8.

The document will also emphasise the need for the BBC to commission a broader range of drama and factual output, highlighting the controversial BBC Two drama Shoot the Messenger, written by the black author Sharon Foster, as an example. The programme was described as “the most racist film in the history of the BBC” for a storyline that was, in part, unashamedly critical of problems in the black community.

The document concludes that the BBC must not confuse its internal equal opportunities policies with its editorial policies, and that it should recognise the range of opinion that exists in Britain. Impartiality has to be measured over a range of programming, not just within a single programme.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said that the report “did not conclude that the BBC was institutionally biased”.

In an article in The Observer, Mr Tait said: “The BBC cannot allow its output to be taken over by campaigning groups.”

Hugo Swire, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said: “We have a right to expect impartiality from a publicly funded broadcaster.”

Key points

— Impartiality is no longer primarily about news – it must be applied by the BBC to entertainment, drama and comedy

— BBC must be open to a range of views and ideas

— Output cannot be taken over by campaigning groups, as with the Make Poverty History campaign

— No excuse for insipid programming

— Room for controversial, passionate polemical arguments by contributors
Things are starting to move in the right direction. Be sure to watch this space.

1 comment:

Xerxes said...

It would be nice to hear some actual left wing views on the BBC for a change. There was no coverage of the May Day marches, and when was the last time anyone on the BBC advocated extended nationalisation?