Section 4: Impartiality
Consensus, Campaigns and Scrutiny
There are some issues which may seem to be without controversy, appearing to be backed by a broad or even unanimous consensus of opinion. Nevertheless, they may present a significant risk to the BBC's impartiality. In such cases, we should continue to report where the consensus lies and give it due weight. However, even if it may be neither necessary nor appropriate to seek out voices of opposition, our reporting should resist the temptation to use language and tone which appear to accept consensus or received wisdom as fact or self-evident.
We must challenge our own assumptions and experiences and also those which may be commonly held by parts of our audience. BBC output should avoid reinforcing generalisations which lack relevant evidence, especially when applying them to specific circumstances. This might occur in the fields of politics, race, charity, science, technology, medicine or elsewhere. These can present some of the most difficult challenges to asserting that the BBC does not hold its own opinion. Care should be taken to treat areas of apparent consensus with proper rigour. Where necessary, consult Editorial Policy.
Similarly, the BBC must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas, no matter how apparently worthy the cause or how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial.
Careful thought will be necessary to ensure perceptions of the BBC's impartiality are maintained when content is scheduled topically and coincides with a third party's campaign. It is advisable to contact Editorial Policy.
Social action output can form an important part of the BBC's public service. However, care is required to ensure the BBC sets its own social action agenda and decides its own priorities:
- We must ensure that our output does not simply embrace the agenda of any particular campaign groups and that we treat groups objectively and do not favour one above another
- If our social action programmes or campaigns coincide with a government campaign or lobbying initiative, it is important we retain an arm's length position
- We must not lobby on matters of public policy when raising awareness of important social issues
- News reporting of BBC social action campaigns must be duly impartial.
Any BBC public service initiative involving any element of fundraising must be referred to Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
We should ensure that appropriate scrutiny is not limited just to those who are in government, or hold power and responsibility, but is also applied to those who oppose them, campaigns, lobbyists, opposition groups and others, including views expressed interactively by the audience.
(See Section 4 Impartiality: 4.4.4)
Section 4: Impartiality