Trust to review impartiality of BBC's rural coverage

Date: 27.03.2013     Last updated: 23.09.2014 at 09.48

The impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of rural areas of the UK is to be examined by the BBC Trust in a review announced today.

The review, announced as part of the publication of the Trust’s annual work plan, 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 be independently authored and will examine news and current affairs, including in the UK’s nations, along with factual programming. It is expected to begin work this summer. It will include content analysis and audience research, and submissions will be invited from the BBC Executive and interested stakeholders.

Further work on the scope of the review will now be carried out and the terms of reference will be published when it launches later this year.

BBC Trustee and chair of the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee Alison Hastings said:

"More than two thirds of the UK’s landscape is rural, and rural issues affect many areas of all our lives. The BBC exists to serve the whole of the UK and we’ll be looking for evidence that the BBC is reflecting these communities and their issues, and that it is achieving the high standards of impartiality which audiences expect."

The Trust has also confirmed today that it will host two impartiality seminars later this year, on impartiality in arts programming and impartiality in economic and political reporting of Africa.

The seminars will involve both BBC and non-BBC journalists, academics and experts. The first of these seminars, on impartiality and economic reporting, took place in November 2012 and a summary can be found here

The Trust work plan is published each year and sets out key projects and areas of work currently planned for the forthcoming year. It does not necessarily reflect every piece of work the Trust will undertake. Other projects included in this year’s work plan, which have previously been announced, include service reviews of BBC One, Two, Three and Four and BBC News, and value for money studies conducted by the National Audit Office on BBC severance packages and the BBC’s property strategy.


Notes to Editors

1. The Trust’s work plan can be found here.

2. The terms of reference and lead author for the impartiality review on rural areas in the UK will be published when the review launches in the summer; the review is expected to conclude in summer 2014.

3. The Trust’s predecessor, the BBC Governors, reviewed the BBC’s rural coverage in 2003. A summary of their findings was published in the 2003/04 BBC Annual Report which can be found here (PDF file).

4. Information about previous impartiality reviews can be found here. The review of coverage of rural areas of 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 is expected to report this summer.

5. As part of the Trust Chairman Lord Patten’s review of BBC governance in 2011, the Trust made a commitment to strengthen its work in ensuring that the BBC’s standards of impartiality are being met, and are seen to be being met. As a result the Trust announced the introduction of regular impartiality seminars that look at emerging and current topics. Unlike the existing impartiality reviews carried out by the Trust, these would not be based on reviews of BBC output, but would instead enable the BBC to consider how to approach current and topical issues, which pose difficulties for programme makers, with due impartiality.