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Independent Panel Report - Impartiality of BBC coverage of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Category: BBC

Date: 02.05.2006
Printable version


The Board of Governors has published today the Independent Panel Report into the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

In October 2005 the Governors commissioned the panel, chaired by Sir Quentin Thomas, to "assess the impartiality of BBC news and current affairs coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with particular regard to accuracy, fairness, context, balance and bias, actual or perceived".

 

The panel's review covered the BBC's UK domestic public service output only.

 

The Governors received the panel's report at their Board meeting last week and welcomed its finding of no deliberate or systematic bias.

 

The Independent Panel concludes that the evidence showing that most viewers and listeners, at least within the UK, regard the BBC as unbiased presents a different challenge: the audience say they do not understand the conflict and, perhaps for that reason, do not see it as important or interesting.

 

The Independent Panel takes the view that impartiality also requires a full and fair account and in that regard found the BBC's coverage to be inconsistent, not always providing a complete picture and in that sense misleading.

 

The panel makes several recommendations to enhance the BBC's coverage, particularly to provide licence fee payers with greater context and assist their understanding of the complexities of the conflict.

 

Sir Quentin Thomas says in his introductory statement: "What the BBC does now is good for the most part; some of it very good.

 

"But, it could and should do better to meet the gold standard which it sets itself in its best programmes."

 

The Board has passed the Independent Panel's report to BBC management and requested their response before reaching its own conclusions.

 

Once the Governors have considered management's response - to be submitted at the June Board meeting - and approved recommendations for implementation, the Board will publish it with their own conclusions.

 

Speaking on behalf of the Board of Governors, Chairman Michael Grade said: "The Governors are grateful to Sir Quentin Thomas and his colleagues.

 

"The Independent Panel's report is a substantial and serious piece of work and so its central finding of no deliberate or systematic bias is all the more reassuring.

 

"The panel found much to praise, but it also identified some shortcomings in the BBC's coverage.

 

"We have asked BBC management to consider the panel's recommendations and respond to us at our June Board meeting.

 

"We have asked that management's response to the recommendations about editorial organisation be set in the context of the Neil Report which the Governors endorsed in full in 2004."

 

Michael Grade also said that: "The BBC must continually demonstrate its efforts to meet the highest editorial standards if it is to retain the high levels of public trust in its output.

 

"It is a measure of the BBC's commitment to that aim that its management team and journalists willingly co-operate with independent reviews such as these.

 

"Indeed, the BBC's impartiality is the most important safeguard of its editorial independence.

 

"The Governors are grateful to the panel members for reviewing the BBC's performance in this highly charged area of news coverage.

 

"Their contribution will assist the BBC in providing the best possible news coverage for licence fee payers."

 

Notes to Editors

 

Members of the Independent Panel:

 

Sir Quentin Thomas CB (chairman): President of the British Board of Film Classification and formerly Political Director in the Northern Ireland Office, with other posts in the Cabinet Office and the Home Office

 

Lord Eames: Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

 

Stewart Purvis: Professor of Television Journalism, City University; former Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive, ITN

 

Philip Stephens: Associate Editor and Columnist, Financial Times

 

Dr Elizabeth Vallance JP: former Head, Department of Politics, Queen Mary College, University of London; Chair of Council, Institute of Education; Committee on Standards in Public Life; Author

 

The Independent Panel's report - together with appendices, which include the output analysis carried out by Loughborough University and audience research carried out by Opinion Leader Research - is available in full on www.bbcgovernors.co.uk.

 

This is the second impartiality review commissioned by the Board of Governors under its new arrangements independent from BBC management.

 

The first, published in January 2005, was about the BBC's coverage of European Issues.

 

BBC Governance Unit

 

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Category: BBC

Date: 02.05.2006
Printable version

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