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Handling complaints fairly, effectively and consistently is an important test of the BBC’s accountability, said BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies.
The purpose of the BBC Programme Complaints Bulletin, published on October 30, is to give an open and honest public account of serious editiorial complaints which have been upheld and the action taken to remedy these, Davies said.
In a foreword to the latest quarterly BBC Programme Complaints Bulletin, Davies said: "Handling complaints fairly, effectively and consistently is one of the most important tests of the BBC’s accountability. Since taking up the reins as Chairman of the BBC I have spent time with the Programme Complaints Unit (PCU), looking at their work and procedures and discussing test cases with them. I have also discussed the work of the Governors' Programme Complaints Committee with its members. I am reassured by what I find. We have a fair and rigorous system of investigating complaints which is independent of programme makers. This is essential for effective self-regulation."
Davies clarified the different responsibilities of the BBC Governors and the Director-General, in the light of press reports which often wrongly attribute PCU decisions to the Governors. He said: "The PCU investigates complaints independently of the interests of programme makers on behalf of the Director-General as the BBC’s Editor-in-Chief. The Governors' task is to make sure the BBC delivers their public service remit. In line with this, they have a responsibility, set out in the Charter, to ensure that there is an effective system for handling complaints. They therefore take an interest in the work of the PCU and receive reports on its operations, without being directly responsible for it."
In his report, BBC Director-General Greg Dyke said the biggest issue in this quarter’s Bulletin had been the edition of ‘Question Time’ broadcast two days after the terrorist attacks in the US. It drew over 70 complaints to the Programme Complaints Unit, 21 of which had been upheld by the end of the reporting period.
Dyke said that even before the PCU got involved he had issued a statement acknowledging mistakes in the tone and timing of the programme and apologised for them.
He said: "The most important thing now is to learn any lessons we can about how to handle programmes of that kind in times of exceptional sensitivity, and discussion about that is well under way."
However, Dyke added that it was important to keep a sense of perspective, because ‘Question Time’ was one misjudgement amid a massive amount of coverage of the events of September 11 and since, which has kept the nation informed while respecting the sensitivities inherent in the situation. (CD)

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