| ||In response to a letter sent by ENGAGE to the BBC's Head of News, Peter Horrocks, we have received this by way of reply (see below). ENGAGE's response to Horrocks' letter can be read here. |
Dear Mr Inayat Bunglawala,
Thank you for your letter, emailed to me on the 13th of January. I've read it carefully, and hope to address the points you raise here.
BBC editors are obviously required to make sure each programme's coverage is impartial and to give appropriate airtime to each side of a current controversy. We have worked extremely hard over the past few weeks, covering these events in and around Gaza, to try to maintain that commitment. Our presenters, reporters, producers and camera staff on the ground are doing their utmost to provide accurate journalism in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances, and our journalists back in London are fixing guests to interview who represent and hold a range of different views.
You can read about the BBC's commitment to impartiality and balance in the published BBC's editorial guidelines: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/edguide/impariality/.
Here are some extracts:
"We seek to provide a properly balanced service consisting of a wide range of subject matter and views broadcast over an appropriate time scale across all our output. We take particular care when dealing with political or industrial controversy or major matters relating to current public policy. We strive to reflect a wide range of opinion and explore a range and conflict of views so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under represented."
But, and this is a big but:
"Impartiality is described in the Agreement as 'due impartiality.' It requires us to be fair and open minded when examining the evidence and weighing all the material facts, as well as being objective and even handed in our approach to a subject. It does not require the representation of every argument or facet of every argument on every occasion or an equal division of time for each view."
This means that there will have been occasions on the BBC News channel (BBC News 24 as it used to be known) when more Palestinians were interviewed than Israelis, as well as more Israelis than Palestinians. So, we are not required to make sure that each and every interview is balanced immediately with an interview with someone from the other side in the conflict. But when we look at the voices and opinions heard across each news day and across our output, we present the broadest range of interviewees (politicians, experts/academics, eyewitnesses etc) to our audience, and that includes reflecting the Palestinian view point fairly. And similarly, the Israeli position. This allows the audience to make informed judgements about what is happening in the world for themselves.
Separately, on your question about monitoring, the BBC does monitor its overall coverage. This is a matter of public record - as outlined in the management response to the Independent Panel Impartiality Report of April 2006 (the Thomas report) commissioned by the then BBC Governors, to which the Muslim Council of Great Britain - among others - gave evidence: http://www.bbcgovernorsarchive.co.uk/docs/reviews/terms_of_referencefinal.txt.
Here is an extract from this report:
"We will review our coverage with greater frequency in order to monitor the above changes. The BBC’s coverage of the Middle East is presently reviewed twice a year by the Journalism Board led by the Deputy Director-General and the News Editorial Board led by the Director of News.
In future, we are proposing that the coverage is reviewed by the News Editorial Board on a quarterly basis. At each meeting, the Director of News will hear reports from the Middle East Editor, the Head of the Middle East Bureaux and the Senior Editorial Adviser on coverage."
These reviews are intended for internal journalistic purposes only, to help ensure we maintain our editorial standards and are following our own guidelines. Finally, as our broadcasts (on radio and television) and our written reports on the website are - by definition - public, it is, of course, open to any outside organisation to monitor the coverage for itself and count appearances in the way you suggest.
Thank you again for taking the trouble to watch and to write in with your concerns. I hope I have addressed them to your satisfation.
Peter Horrocks, Head of BBC Newsroom.
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