The Neil Report,
published in full today (23 June 2004) by the BBC, lays out recommendations
and guidelines to strengthen BBC journalism in the future.
Clearly stating the core values of BBC journalism, the
Report emphasises the importance of continuous training, and of learning
from both existing best practice and from the specific circumstances
around the broadcast which led to the Hutton Inquiry last year.
The Report's most ambitious recommendation is that the
BBC should establish a college of journalism under the leadership of
an academic principal.
Announcing the publication of the Report, BBC Director-General
Mark Thompson said: "The BBC does not have the public's
trust as of right; it has to earn and maintain it.
"The Neil Report will enable us to do this, highlighting what we
do well and what we could do better.
"It is a template for strengthening BBC journalism in the future
and I have asked Mark Byford, Deputy Director-General, to oversee the
immediate implementation of the Report's recommendations in full."
Richard Sambrook, Director, BBC News, said: "Ronald
Neil and his team have conducted a thorough and searching examination.
"We have worked closely with them and welcome their very constructive
"We have already begun the work of rapidly implementing the Report's
The review group was set up in February 2004 by the
then Acting Director-General Mark Byford to identify the editorial
lessons from Lord Hutton's Inquiry and Report.
It was led by the BBC's former Director of News and Current Affairs
Ronald Neil and included a former Editor of ITN and BBC editorial
Ronald Neil said: "In carrying out our work over
the past three months, the review group recognises the formidable professionalism
that already underwrites the BBC's journalism every day.
"However, setting out to improve, strengthen and learn from the
experience of life's events when they go wrong is a proper ambition.
"It is a stance of strength, not a weakness.
"I and the rest of the review team are very grateful for the considerable
openness of BBC journalists and programme-makers in assisting us in
The Report recommends that journalism training in the
BBC should have a substantially enhanced role and investment.
It says: "As the largest employer of journalists in the UK, the
BBC has an obligation to take the lead in strengthening training in
craft skills and promoting debate about journalistic standards and ethics
The Report concludes that achieving this requires a "sea change
in approach" towards a system of career development and promotion
based on clear competencies.
The Report sets out and emphasises the core values of
BBC journalism. They are:
Truth and Accuracy
- BBC journalism should be rooted in the highest possible levels of
accuracy and precision of language, well sourced, based on sound evidence
and thoroughly tested;
Serving the Public Interest - prioritising and reporting stories
of significance and relevance to audiences, being well informed when
explaining stories and robust, but fair and open-minded in asking searching
questions of those who hold public office;
Impartiality and Diversity of Opinion - reporting facts in their
context, not opinion, practising openness and independence of mind and
testing a wide range of views with the evidence;
Independence - striving to be an independent monitor of powerful
institutions and individuals, making judgements for sound editorial
reasons, not as the result of improper political or commercial pressure;
Accountability - the BBC's first loyalty is to its audiences
and their continuing trust in the BBC's journalism is a crucial part
of the BBC's contract with them. The BBC will be open in admitting mistakes
when they are made, unambiguous about apologising for them, and must
encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them.
"All programmes operating under the BBC's journalistic
banner must work to the same values, professional disciplines and journalistic
culture," says the Report.
The Report highlights lessons to be learned arising from the 6.07am
broadcast made by Andrew Gilligan on 29 May 2003 and notes that during
the Hutton Inquiry the BBC acknowledged that with hindsight it would
have done a number of things differently.
The Report concludes that:
The BBC should continue to report stories based on a single source but
"only where the story is one of significant public interest and
the correct procedures have been followed".
Audience should be given "as much accurate information as is compatible
with protecting the identity of the source" and descriptions should
Stories from anonymous sources should have greater editorial scrutiny
within the BBC.
As BBC News has 10 times as many journalists than a national newspaper,
broadcasting 120 hours of output a day, editors are the day-to-day custodians
of the BBC's journalistic values.
This includes ensuring producers and presenters clearly understand their
responsibilities in adhering to the values.
Accurate and reliable note-taking should be part of all BBC journalists'
Clear principles and procedures should be adopted when making serious
allegations to ensure that it is clear to the audience who is making
the allegation - the BBC or a third party?
The need to demonstrate fairness, openness and straight dealing in the
BBC's journalism is paramount.
Approaches to people or organisations against whom serious allegations
are being made must be honest, clear and specific and made in a genuinely
open-minded spirit and in good and reasonable time.
Live "two ways" are still an important part of modern broadcasting
but that they are normally inappropriate for breaking stories containing
serious and potentially defamatory allegations.
Editorial lawyers should be a routine fixture in the main news areas.
The Report notes that the Board of Governors has already
approved new policies and procedures in relation to journalists and
programme-makers undertaking outside commitments, including writing
The BBC has also been conducting a review of its complaints
handling procedures, the main findings of which will be published in
the near future.
The Neil Report points to the lessons that should be learned from the
handling of the Today programme complaint, including the need for "a
system and a culture that encourages fast clarification and correction".
In addition to the establishment of a new college of
journalism, the review recommends that the BBC institutes a programme
of continuous learning for all staff at all levels with a culture of
learning from the reporting of difficult stories and from instances
where mistakes have been made.
The Report states: "At the heart of strong journalism is a confident,
well-trained journalistic force, who have a real knowledge and experience
of the essential craft skills and disciplines. All training should be
dedicated to that single end."
Notes to Editors:
Statement from the Board of Governors regarding the Neil Report
can be found below.
The review group was announced on 18 February 2004 by Mark Byford and
was asked to:
examine the editorial issues for the BBC raised by the Hutton Inquiry
identify the learning lessons and make appropriate recommendations,
including necessary revisions to the Producers' Guidelines and to the
handling of complaints.
The members of the review group were: Ronald Neil, a
former Director of BBC News and Current Affairs; Glenwyn Benson, Controller
Factual Commissioning Television; Helen Boaden, Controller Radio 4 and
BBC 7; Adrian Van Klaveren, Head of Newsgathering BBC News; Richard
Tait, former Editor-in-Chief ITN; and Stephen Whittle, Controller Editorial
Statement by the Board
The BBC Governors fully endorse the findings and recommendations
of the Neil Report which examined the editorial lessons for the organisation
arising from the Hutton Inquiry.
The panel was convened by the Acting Director-General, Mark Byford,
in the wake of the Hutton Report and chaired by Ronald Neil.
The independent panel's recommendations will be implemented in full
by BBC managers, editors and journalists and will be incorporated into
the BBC Producers' Guidelines.
The Governors will be regularly updated on the implementation of the
reforms by management and will examine their impact, in due course if
necessary, through independent assessment.
The Neil Report will become required reading for all current and future
BBC journalists, their managers and Governors.
The Neil Report notes that the Governors had overseen
changes in the BBC's management structure, its processes and guidelines
before Lord Hutton reported in January this year.
These included appointing a Deputy Director-General with responsibility
for editorial compliance, undertaking a thorough review of the BBC's
complaints handling system and tighter rules on BBC journalists and
presenters writing for newspapers and magazines.
The Neil Report and the implementation of its findings
represent a central element in the BBC's commitment to learn the lessons
of last summer.
The Governors agree with the Neil panel's view that learning from events
when things go wrong is a sign of organisational strength not weakness.
The Neil Report's recommendations will lead to substantial
changes in how the BBC will execute its commitment to impartial and
In particular, the Neil Report's emphasis on training reforms is crucial.
The Board of Governors is clear that the BBC must remain editorially
independent and continue its commitment to investigative journalism
set within a strengthened editorial framework.
In addition, the Governors have now approved an overhaul
of BBC complaints procedures and the findings will be published in the
Some aspects of these reforms have been informed by the handling of
the complaint about Andrew Gilligan's broadcast (referred to in the
On 29 June the BBC will publish its first public contribution
to the Government's review of the BBC Charter. This document will set
out a vision for the BBC's future based around building public value.
It will explain the detailed changes the BBC plans to make in its governance
and accountability arrangements.
Some of these changes have been influenced by the Governors' review
of their own decisions.
The BBC's Annual Report and Accounts for 2003/04, to be published mid-July,
will summarise all the changes implemented by the Corporation since
Lord Hutton's Inquiry.