The BBC is currently consulting on its editorial guidelines, the rules that govern the Corporation’s relationship to, for example, impartiality, accuracy, commercial references and harm and offence.
We believe that the draft guidelines set out important principles, provisions and protections. But the issue with the BBC has always been less with its official editorial policies, and more with its capacity to meet those standards in practice.
Despite a strong commitment to impartiality, the BBC’s output has always tended to reflect elite opinion on a range of significant political issues. Political reporting has been strongly orientated towards and influenced by Westminster and the private press. Senior politicians, along with the financial sector, have strongly influenced reporting of economic issues, with alternative, and even mainstream, macroeconomic perspectives marginalised, whilst the BBC’s reporting of issues of war and peace has similarly been shaped by the statements and perspectives of senior politicians and state officials, failing to adequately reflect a range of views, or to sufficiently interrogate official claims. Underpinning these editorial failings is a highly centralised and politicised editorial structure, as well as a range of formal and informal connections, and relationships, with the state and the broader British ‘Establishment’, as well as an editorial culture that is shaped by the class and educational background of staff.
The Media Reform Coalition has produced a set of draft reform proposals to address these issues. But since they are organisational, they – and the problems they are intended to address – are beyond the scope of this particular consultation. Nevertheless, there are a number of issues that could be better addressed in this draft document as we outline in our full submission which is available here.