On the day the UK has moved into an official recession, I thought it would be worth returning to a subject which has come up before but on which we still receive a regular flow of e-mails and comments.
There's no doubt that a proportion of audiences for TV and radio, and here online, feel that the BBC is just too gloomy in its reporting of the economy. Some of you feel that the coverage is just relentlessly downbeat and while you don't question its accuracy, you tell us that it's just a switch-off and that you've heard it all before. Others, even more worryingly, feel that our reporting is positively undermining confidence and has actively contributed to the situation we're in.
On the first question, whether we're just too gloomy: it's something that we're acutely aware of and which we regularly discuss. It's a concern which has been shaping our coverage in different ways. A simple example may illustrate.
It's clear that reporting every single house price survey that comes across our desks, can, by simple dint of repetition, create an overall impression of a picture more gloomy that it is. For instance, if we report a 2% house price fall three times in one month from different organisations, it may be completely accurate. Yet some regular viewers will take away the impression that house prices are falling much more steeply, assaulted week after week by essentially the same story.
For that reason, we are very choosy about which surveys and statistics to report and we plan our coverage more broadly than a simple "on-the-day" reaction. Similarly, our "downturn" graphics with the plunging red arrow have attracted some criticism. Seen once or twice, they have a far milder effect than constant repetition many times a day over a period of weeks or months. That visual power and the reinforcing effect of repetition is something we've taken into account in designing our new "recession" branding which began today.
We've also made real efforts to reflect the nuanced picture of the economy. We understand that many people are unaffected by this recession and that some have even benefited. You can see some examples of the variety of coverage here and here. Only yesterday, we widely reported gas price cuts which will benefit millions.
Secondly, the allegation that our coverage has somehow contributed to the worsening economic conditions. It's a that view I reject, but I'm not going to pretend that we do our journalism in a total vacuum.
Clearly, confidence plays a part in any economy. Yet I don't believe that accurate and factual coverage, of the sort we provide, does anything other than help people make sensible, rational judgements about their own economic behaviour. The UK is in the midst of global financial crisis and financial reporting can surely have had nothing to do with governments around the world being forced to inject trillions of dollars into their banking systems?
The BBC has a duty to accurately report and reflect the facts and statistics of the UK economy in a proportionate and measured way and I believe we do that to the best of our ability. Our audiences would not expect us to talk up the economy any more than they would want us to talk it down.
Jeremy Hillman is editor of the business and economics unit.