There was once a head of BBC News, called Tahu Hole, who implemented a regime of extreme caution. In his, much resented, view it was the job of his staff only to report what others had found out rather than what they had uncovered for themselves. Each story would only be broadcast if there were already at least two other outside sources. The BBC did not break news.
Even 25 years ago, when I was editor of Panorama and then Nationwide, I found there was a tendency to believe news was what was written in the papers, rather than what my own journalists had discovered. Mind you, if we did have a good story, we were pretty ruthless in keeping it to ourselves and not letting our colleagues in News know about it until after transmission.
All that has now changed. For example, when File on 4 has a good story the reporter will often be interviewed about it on the Today programme and play clips from the programme, before the original report has actually been transmitted. In the last few days the Today programme, and other BBC news outlets, have given considerable space to a Panorama investigation into corruption among Fifa officials who would be deciding, as it turns out, that England would not be hosting the 2018 World Cup. Some of our listeners were worried that the report could damage England's chances, others note how many stories about the BBC are on the BBC.
The Corporation is often in the headlines, whether it be over a controversial play, like the recent one about the army in Afghanistan by Jimmy McGovern, or because of executive salaries, or because of a radio presenter's lapse of taste. So how should the BBC report stories its journalists have originated and controversies in which it is embroiled?
I discussed those questions with the Deputy Director of BBC News, Steve Mitchell, who is, among other things, responsible for both Panorama and the Today programme.
This week's Feedback is the last of this series. We are back on air on the 28th January, but please keep in contact. We read everything you send us and our agenda is decided by you the listener.
Also if you fancy doing a report for Feedback (for love not money), investigating an issue that concerns you, then do let us know. Even I am getting bored with the sound of my voice, so yours would provide a welcome relief!
Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback
- Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
- Watch Panorama: Fifa's Dirty Secrets, on iPlayer.
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- In the press: ESPN (a US sports network) blogger Mark Young says England's humiliation had nothing to do with the media. Alan Cochrane in The Telegraph says: "The BBC was absolutely correct." Ian Wright in The Sun disagrees: it was "Brainless, betraying, cretinous". HR Magazine says that the loss of the World Cup is a disaster for British business.
- The picture is a still from the Panorama programme.