Feedback: Is the BBC impartial?
Sir Robin Day and I were having one of our many arguments about the coverage of Ireland.
It was over 30 years ago. The veteran TV interrogator, with his “cruel glasses”, was in his prime and I was his very young programme Editor. There was a consensus between the two frontbenches in Westminster that the future of Ireland, indeed the possible reunification of North and South, should not be discussed. I thought it should.
I argued that the conflict in the North had been going on for almost 15 years, with great loss of life, property and the maiming of many innocent bystanders. It showed no sign of ending. Several opinion polls had indicated that between 40 and 50% of the British people thought that British troops should be brought back to the mainland. Surely the audience in a democracy should be allowed to hear the arguments for and against?
Robin’s view was that it was Parliament which set the agenda in a democracy. “After all”, he said, “no one elected us”.
I thought of that exchange again this week when reading the latest report from the BBC Trust on impartiality. Stuart Prebble, the former Chief Executive of ITV who is its author, argues that the BBC’s journalists, though in general doing a pretty impartial job, are too often influenced by the Westminster hot-house, and that the network journalists, now all brought together in their spanking new newsroom in London, home also to the World Service, could fall prey to the dangers of “groupthink”.
The danger is that voices from the rest of the country and from the margins of debate could be excluded.
In Feedback this week I talked to Stuart Prebble about his report.
Feedback reports on the BBC Trust's latest impartiality review and hears listeners' views.
Also this week, as a result of listening to last week’s discussion on Recycled Radio, we were sent this song by David Summers. We couldn’t play it in all in Feedback but here it is in all its glory.
Dave loves Recycled Radio so much that he dedicates his song to anyone who doesn't.
By the way did you hear the two old 69 year old men talking on the Today programme?
I refer of course to Mick Jagger and John Humphrys. Sir Mick showed real talent as an interviewer. He got John to reveal that he will never retire but intends to present Today for as long as he is wanted. I’m not sure how well that news will go down with some of the BBC's younger presenters!