I've been researching material for a speech I'm giving next month to an audience of Chinese television executives in Beijing. I'm told they particularly want to hear about the way the BBC is structured and the values on which it is based.
Well, whatever else you may think about it, the BBC is an organisation with values, and is open about expressing them. In fact, the BBC has got more values than you can shake a stick at.
My Chinese hosts have allotted me a generous slot in the conference schedule. Just as well, because there's a lot to get through.
Before it gets down to its values, the BBC proclaims its purpose with a Mission Statement. You all know what that is but, for your convenience, here's a reminder:
The BBC's mission is "to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain".
In case you think that sounds a bit paltry as an ambition, it's supported by a Vision Statement. The BBC's vision, as you will no doubt be aware, is "to be the most creative organisation in the world".
That's more like it. Now, about those values. There are six of them.
- Trust is the foundation of the BBC; it is independent, impartial and honest
- Audiences are at the heart of everything it does
- The BBC takes pride in delivering quality and value for money
- Creativity is the lifeblood of the organisation
- We respect each other and celebrate our diversity
- We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.
Gives you a warm glow just reading it!
But wait. What do does the BBC actually do? What is the point of the BBC?
Step forward Public Purposes. Another six of the best:
- Sustaining citizenship and civil society
- Promoting education and learning
- Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence
- Representing the UK; its nations and communities
- Bringing the UK to the world, and the world to the UK
- Delivering to the public the benefits of emerging communications, technologies and services.
Think that's enough to be going on with? Think again. BBC journalism has its own Mission Statement. Or is it a Vision Statement? It is "to produce the best journalism in the world".
Fair enough. If you were paring all this stuff down, you'd probably want to keep that one in.
BBC News also identifies a number of Principles to help us achieve that goal. I'll sub them down a bit in the interest of keeping things moving. The Principles are essentially about:
- Truth and accuracy
- Serving the public interest
- Impartiality and diversity of opinion
Hard to argue with any of this, but, you must admit, there's rather a lot of it.
I'm not sure what my Chinese audience will make of it all, especially when they receive it through the medium of simultaneous translation.
But, even for us, these Mission Statements, Visions, Public Purposes and Principles - well, it's a lot to bear in mind when you log in of a morning. As my mum used to say, just do your best.