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24/11/2011

BBC On The Rack Over Editorial Guidelines

The body responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of the BBC has slammed the corporation over a total of 15 programmes broadcast on its World News service, which have breached the BBC's Editorial or Sponsorship Guidelines.
The BBC Trust said in November that the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) found that the programmes, which were acquired by the BBC for low or nominal cost from independent producers, breached one or more of the BBC's guidelines.
They said these were conflicts of interest, the prohibition of promotion of a sponsor's activities, the prohibition of sponsorship for current affairs programming and the need to credit a sponsor to ensure transparency for viewers.
The Committee found that none of the programmes breached the guidelines on due impartiality.
As a result, the BBC has now made a series of changes to the way it acquires and funds programming for the channel.
BBC World News will not acquire programmes for a low or nominal cost and it will no longer accept sponsorship from non-commercial organisations.
In addition, it will review its supplier list, introducing tougher rules on transparency for those who make its programmes and strengthening its due diligence and approval processes.
Richard Ayre, who chaired the meeting of the Trust's ESC said: "International audiences must be able to rely on the same integrity and independence in the BBC's editorial decisions as audiences in the UK.
"We have found that several programmes shown on the BBC's World News channel had been inappropriately sponsored, and in the case of one of the independent producers, FBC Media (UK) Ltd, there was at least a suggestion that the company had a conflict of interest of which the BBC had been unaware.
"The Trust is deeply concerned at this and we very much regret that these programmes failed to live up to the editorial standards we set for the BBC.
"The Director General has already implemented a series of measures to prevent it happening again; we expect him to carry out a follow-up audit next year and report back to the Trust."
This is not the first such instance, as in a meeting in May 2011, the Trust's ESC found a breach of the BBC's guidelines prohibiting the sponsorship of current affairs and on conflict of interest in a programme called Taking the Credit which was broadcast on BBC World News in October 2009.
Following this, the ESC asked the BBC to carry out an audit of the funding arrangements for documentary or feature programmes broadcast, commissioned or in production from 28 February to 7 August 2011, that (like Taking the Credit) were acquired for low or nominal cost.
Since that audit was commissioned, the Executive has separately been carrying out an investigation into programming made for BBC World News following allegations put to the BBC by a national newspaper that the company in question had been paid to conduct a 'Global Strategic Communications Campaign' for the Malaysian Government and also made programmes for the BBC featuring Malaysia and Malaysian issues.
(BMcC/GK)
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