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BBC publishes plans for “fair, accurate and unbiased” content

BBC

The BBC is to tackle accusations of bias with “sweeping changes” to focus on editorial standards, impartiality and whistleblowing across the organisation.

It says the move represents its “biggest and most significant push” to ensure that its programmes are fair, accurate, unbiased and reflect the “broad public which it serves.”

“The BBC’s editorial values of impartiality, accuracy and trust are the foundation of our relationship with audiences in the UK and around the world. Our audiences deserve and expect programmes and content which earn their trust every day and we must meet the highest standards and hold ourselves accountable in everything we do,” said BBC Director-General Tim Davie.

“The changes we have announced not only ensure we learn the lessons from the past but also protect these essential values for the future.”

The announcement comes as a result of the Serota Review into governance and culture, which has also been published today. That was commissioned by the BBC earlier in the year, following Lord Dyson’s investigation into the circumstances around the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales

“There is no doubt the BBC is a very different place to that of 25 years ago and, thankfully, progress has been made. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for the BBC leadership team to go further and ensure that accuracy, impartiality, fairness and integrity are embedded more deeply across the organisation,” said Review Chairman Sir Nicholas Serota.

“The BBC can and should be properly held to account against these core values and standards. This can only be achieved through improved transparency and openness, both internally and externally.

“We have every confidence the BBC leadership understands this and also the very real need to deliver these improvements on behalf of audiences.”

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp added:

“We need a BBC that is beyond reproach when it comes to impartiality, standards, processes and transparency. The Serota Review makes clear recommendations to the Board across all these areas, which will be acted upon. We accept the report in full.”

It has outlined a 10 point plan as follows:

Reviews

The BBC said it would be carrying out a number of reviews to ensure “due impartiality and that a breadth of voices and viewpoints are being reflected.”

The first of these will cover UK public spending and taxation. It will begin in January next year and be completed by the summer.

Editorial

The BBC’s Editorial Policy team will be strengthened and given increased responsibility to support content makers.

The BBC Executive will lead internal management content reviews to assess the extent to which content meets editorial standards.

Investigations

A new, simple set of procedures are to be published for dealing with internal investigations. These will have “designated, experienced staff” able to conduct investigations.

It will also clarify the Complaints Framework on how the BBC handles “accelerated editorial complaints” about broadcast or published content.

Monitoring

The Board will monitor impartiality metrics including: editorial complaints; training; audience perception and demographic data; tracking actions from the 10-point plan.

Editorial values and culture

This is a contractual commitment for all staff and the BBC stated that it will  be made clear that “deliberate or negligent breaches of a serious nature, or attempts to conceal them, will result in disciplinary action or dismissal, regardless of seniority, profile, or role.”

It added that the Editorial Guidelines will be more prominent and easy to use, and editors and managers will be encouraged to build trust through open discussion within their teams.

Improved governance

It will be strengthening its Editorial Guidelines and Standards Committee, which oversees standards after broadcast. This will include 2 editorial experts from outside of the BBC.

Training

Its impartiality training, which was launched this year will be extended across the organisation, including freelancers.

Transparency

New measures will be adopted to improve transparency both internally and externally.

Whistleblowing

A new editorial whistleblowing policy is being implemented, with senior people nominated to deal with complaints and increased training.

Voices and viewpoints

Managers “will be challenged” to represent audiences from all parts of the UK both on and off screen.

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