Trust upholds a complaint about impartiality on 5 live

Jonathan Isaby Jonathan Isaby works for the TaxPayers' Alliance

The BBC needs to be better at telling its audience when a contributor has a vested interest in a subject or is affiliated with a pressure group or think tank, says BBC Trust.

The ruling follows a complaint about a programme aired on 5 live Drive last April.

The programme included an interview with Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance.

He had come onto the show to discuss a dispute between Scottish Labour MP Jim McGovern and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) over a £24 rail fare he wanted to claim on expenses. He was told he couldn't claim for it and took the decision to an appeal, costing the taxpayer £27,000.

Isaby from the TaxPayers' Alliance was allowed to comment on the dispute as if he was part of a 'non-partisan body', said the complaint taken to the trust.

The complaint added that the group is largely financed by private wealthy donors and is 'at the heart of Conservative Party policy lobbying' - something which the TaxPayers' Alliance denies.

The trust committee ruled that although Isaby's views 'might well have had support from people of all political persuasions', the programme breached impartiality guidelines because the audience 'should have been made aware of the political nature of the organisation'.

The Committee added that 'it was not made clear by the programme, specifically or by the context, that Jonathan Isaby and the Taxpayers' Alliance came from a particular, campaigning viewpoint'.

They also judged that there was 'a need for content producers to take particular care in considering when signposting of contributors' credentials is required'.

Conflict of interest

A similar complaint made about a programme on Radio 4 was upheld by the trust.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Medicine, broadcast last January, was found to breach editorial guidelines on conflict of interest.

The medic and author presented a one-off programme in which he explored how randomised controlled trials (RCTs) can be used to make social policy decisions.

While Goldacre identified himself as a supporter of the concept of RCTs in a public policy context, the programme did not make clear that he had co-authored a Cabinet Office paper on the subject.

The trust concluded: 'A conflict of interest may arise when the external activities of anyone involved in making our content affects the BBC's reputation for integrity, independence and high standards, or may be reasonably perceived to do so.

'Our audiences must be able to trust the BBC and be confident that our editorial decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.'

Additionally, a news item on Reporting Scotland was found to breach guidelines on accuracy. The trust ruled that clips of Ireland's former European Affairs Minister and the then Secretary of State for Scotland could have been better edited, but that the programme had not intentionally misled viewers.


Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.