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    Feedback: Editorial Balance

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    I nearly fell out of bed on Tuesday morning. It was around 8.40 am and I should have been up anyway, but I had only gone back to bed an hour before.

    I find sleeping difficult when the sun rises early, so I had been up since dawn working on an obsessive local history project before popping back for a quick nap. 

    Of course the Today programme was on in the background. It has the peculiar property of being able to send me to sleep and sometimes wake me up. This time it was the latter. A voice from the turbulent past.

    I had last heard of Professor Greg Philo in the early 1980s when his Glasgow media Group analysed the Corporation’s coverage of the Miners’ Strike and found it wanting. I was a BBC programme Editor at the time and, although I did not agree with much that he wrote, I was impressed and challenged by his analysis, which certainly made me think, and was a valuable corrective to the parliamentary consensus.

    On Today on Tuesday he was also in challenging mode, alleging that the Beeb’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza was pro-Israel. Many Feedback listeners agree with him, and almost as many disagree.

    It was refreshing to hear his views, and I look forward to the publication of his detailed analysis, and that of those who allege the opposite. I also hope voices like his will be heard more regularly. Broadcasters need to be challenged. That’s what Feedback is all about.

    Philo was particularly critical of the alleged absence of context, but here I disagree with him. There is only so much context that can be put in a news report without excluding other major stories, and a major advance over the last few years has been the development of the BBC News website. There you will find excellent analysis and background features which were simply not available when I was a programme editor. 

    And I sometimes feel that academics do not allow sufficiently for cock ups.

    When I was editor of the BBC 1 Nationwide programme during an industrial dispute, one academic research team, which took a 24 hour snapshot of the BBC coverage of the issue, accused me of bias.

    Only one side in the dispute had been represented in a discussion, they said. 

    That was true, but it was because the representative of the other side was caught up in a traffic jam on the way to our studios in Shepherds Bush.

    He appeared the following day, but that appearance fell outside the 24 hour period covered by the academics.

    Back to today.Here is our feature about the conflict in Gaza which also contains an interview with Andrew Roy, World Editor of BBC News.

    Roger Bolton talks about editorial balance in news reporting.

    Also this week we talked to the BBC’s Director of News, James Harding, about the significant cuts he announced in his division.

    On Thursday he said 220 full time jobs would go overall in an attempt to save £48 million.He also stressed the need to push on with the digital transformation of news.

    Do let us know what you think of his plans


    Roger Bolton

    Roger Bolton is the presenter of Radio 4's Feedback programme


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