BBC Director-General updates BBC Trust on action to strengthen editorial processes
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson this week provided an update to the BBC Trust in which he reported substantial progress in delivering a package of tough and rigorous measures to address concern over recent editorial breaches in competitions and voting.
The BBC Trust was informed that:
The BBC-wide review of our output since 2005 is now completed, and four further serious editorial breaches had been found. None of the further editorial breaches involved premium rate telephone lines (in any case the BBC does not raise revenue through the use of premium rate telephone lines, other than, in exceptional cases, for nominated charities).
An Editorial Standards Board, chaired by the BBC's Deputy Director-General Mark Byford, and comprising the BBC's most senior output directors, has been established and is undertaking a major programme of work in this area. This group has met weekly and has overseen the work detailed below.
An unprecedented programme of editorial training, Safeguarding Trust, will begin in November. It is expected that all 16,500 BBC production and content staff will participate in the mandatory training programme. This programme is not simply about reinforcing the imperative to understand and comply with all of the BBC's values and editorial standards, including truth and honesty, but in that context will enable staff to debate the right production techniques in light of the current debate about artifice in programmes. Training materials will be made available to other broadcasters and independent producers.
A phased and controlled return of competitions on BBC programmes and online, which are currently suspended, is also expected to begin in November following a strengthening of editorial guidance and control. Competitions will now be approved and supervised at a senior level within each output area. The Director-General reported to the Trust that he expected a significant reduction in the number of competitions being broadcast by the BBC, but he recognised that audiences very much enjoyed taking part in BBC programmes in this way.
A full independent inquiry into the incident involving the BBC One autumn season launch and Her Majesty The Queen, which is being conducted by Will Wyatt CBE, is expected to report to the Director-General in October. The findings of this inquiry will be made public once they have been considered by the BBC Trust.
The Director-General informed the Trust that he has commissioned a major new online project which will enable the public to explore how contemporary media content is produced. The BBC believes this will be a major contribution to media literacy in Britain. Roly Keating, the Controller of BBC Two, and Chris Burns, Executive Editor, Factual Programmes, BBC Audio and Music, have been asked to lead this work. Both are senior programme makers with substantial and distinguished experience.
The programme of communication to all staff about the vital importance of maintaining trust with audiences is continuing.
A review of staff and freelance contracts has been initiated and changes will be made to strengthen ever further clauses relating to upholding BBC values and editorial policies and to ensure the responsibility for upholding the BBC's high editorial standards and the consequences of breaching those standards are fully understood.
All publicity materials are now subject to formal editorial compliance, with further action in this area to follow subject to the recommendations of the Wyatt inquiry.
A BBC working party on the use of premium rate telephony in programme and content areas has made significant progress. This includes the development of new editorial and operational guidance which will form part of the overall management response on strengthening editorial compliance. The group is also revising the BBC's policy on the use of premium rate tariffs and is looking to set up a system of approved service providers of telephony.
The Director-General is to meet his counterparts in the commercial public service broadcasters later this month to discuss ways of working together to build and restore public confidence and trust in the light of editorial issues across the industry.
A number of disciplinary proceedings have been undertaken.
The Trust was given an update on the BBC-wide review of our output since January 2005.
On 18 July, the BBC made public a number of serious breaches of editorial standards which it had reported to the Trust.
Since then, the management's further work examining the results of the BBC-wide review of output is now fully completed and has found four further serious editorial breaches. Two cases involved audience voting on the web, as opposed to telephony, where the correct result was set aside by production staff. Two cases involved radio competitions where the production staff did not properly comply with editorial guidelines.
Blue Peter, transmitted 4-11 January 2006 on BBC One and CBBC
An online audience vote took place to determine the name of the new Blue Peter kitten. The outcome of this vote (which selected the name "Cookie") was overruled by part of the production team in favour of "Socks" which was deemed to be a more suitable name for the kitten.
An apology is to be broadcast to viewers on Blue Peter in the first edition of the new series of the programme (25 September, BBC One, 5.00pm) and Blue Peter is to introduce a further kitten to the programme next week who will be given the name "Cookie" as voted for by viewers. "Socks" will also remain on the team.
Film Café, transmitted 17 February 2007 on the BBC Asian Network
An audience vote for awards winners in a Bollywood programme, Film Café, was effectively overruled by a member of the production team in two categories, once as a result of an error in reading results and once on the basis that the genuine winner was unavailable for interview.
Clare McDonnell Show, transmitted in September 2006 on BBC 6 Music
When the show was first broadcast there were insufficient winning entries for a competition run, as a result of which a member of the production team supplemented audience winners with some fictional winners. Over time, a very small number of winning entries were also disregarded as they came from listeners who had repeatedly won competitions on BBC 6 Music. Clare McDonnell was not aware that this had been the case.
Tom Robinson, transmitted in September 2006 on
BBC 6 Music
The offer of tickets from a band led to the creation of an
ad-hoc competition for which no entries were received. A member of the production team invented a fictional winner for the competition whose name was then broadcast. Tom Robinson was not aware that this had been the case.
Neither of the above programmes involved the use of premium rate phone lines.
Mark Thompson said: "I would like to repeat my apology to viewers and listeners who were misled by these editorial lapses.
"The BBC has taken a wide range of actions in recent months to strengthen our editorial guidelines and processes to address the very significant concern rightly felt over editorial misjudgements.
"Although these lapses amount to tens of hours across one million hours of broadcasting, the BBC's standards must be as high in small scale competitions as they are in the most major news story.
"I believe that the actions we have and are taking demonstrate the central importance the whole BBC places on getting it right."
BBC Press Office