Trust confirms Heather Hancock as lead author for rural impartiality review

Date: 30.05.2013     Last updated: 23.09.2014 at 09.48

The BBC Trust has appointed Heather Hancock, former chair of the BBC’s rural affairs committee, as author of an independent report on the impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of rural areas in the UK. 

The review, announced by the Trust in March, will cover news, current affairs and factual programmes on BBC network, national, regional and local services.  It is the latest in a rolling programme of impartiality reviews looking at different aspects of the BBC’s output, in line with the Trust’s responsibility as set out in the Charter to ‘do all it can’ to ensure the impartiality of the BBC.

The review will include the independent report by Mrs Hancock, audience research and content analysis. 

Areas the review will examine include:

  • How accurate the BBC’s output is at reflecting the lives of rural communities;
  • Whether the BBC has given due weight to the diverse aspects of an argument, without giving undue weight to institutional perspectives; 
  • Whether coverage reflects a breadth and diversity of opinion across output and across time, and whether it reflects any variations of opinion between metropolitan and rural communities;
  • When scientific theories are involved, whether they are well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear and precise language. 

BBC Trustee Alison Hastings said:

“Heather Hancock brings a wealth of experience inside and outside the BBC and I am very pleased she will be leading this review.  This is our first in-depth look at the BBC’s rural coverage.  We’ll be examining whether audiences are getting impartial and accurate news about issues reflecting rural areas, which reflects a wide range of opinions.  We’ll also be looking for evidence that the BBC avoids over-reliance on the views of a handful of individual organisations or institutions.  The BBC is still the news source most trusted by the public; our review is an important part of our work in ensuring that the BBC maintains that reputation.”

Heather Hancock said:

“I am delighted to be reviewing the impartiality of the BBC’s rural coverage.  Issues such as the forthcoming badger cull pilots, and wind farms in rural areas, attract a diversity of opinion across rural and urban areas: it will be fascinating to examine the BBC’s approach to providing duly impartial coverage of issues such as this which affect many people’s lives.”

The review is expected to conclude in summer 2014.

Notes to Editors

  1. The review of coverage of rural areas in the UK is the sixth impartiality review carried out by the Trust.  Previous impartiality reviews have looked at the BBC’s coverage of business (published 2007); network news and current affairs coverage of the UK nations (2008, with a follow-up review published in 2010); science (2011) and the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’ (2012).  An impartiality review on the BBC’s breadth of opinion, led by Stuart Prebble, is currently underway and will be published this summer.  Information about previous impartiality reviews can be found here
  2. Prior to the Trust’s inception, the BBC Governors reviewed the BBC’s rural coverage in 2003.  A summary of their findings was published in the 2003/4 BBC Annual Report which can be found here (PDF file).
  3. Heather Hancock is Managing Partner for Talent and Brand for Deloitte in the UK, and Deloitte’s global managing director for brand and communications.  Prior to joining Deloitte in 2003 she worked in the public sector, in roles including private secretary to three Home Secretaries, accounting officer for The Millennium Commission, chief executive of a special local authority, and executive director of a regional development agency.  She sat on the BBC’s rural affairs committee for ten years, chairing it for several of those, and she was a member of the expert panel for the BBC Governors’ review of BBC rural coverage in 2003.  She was a Trustee of the Prince’s Trust for twelve years to 2012, chairing its audit committee for six years.  Mrs Hancock is a former Chairman of The Football League’s committee on the future structure of football. In January 2013 she was appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order for her services to the royal family and, in particular, her work as a trustee for the Prince’s Trust.
  4. At her request, Mrs Hancock will not be paid for her work on the review although reasonable expenses will be paid.
  5. The BBC’s rural affairs committee is an independent advisory body comprised of members mostly from outside the BBC.
  6. On 9 May 2013 the BBC published research by Kantar Media and Ipsos MORI on public perceptions of the impartiality and trustworthiness of the BBC.  The research can be found at