BBC Trust statement on BBC editorial standards, controls and compliance

Date: 18.07.2007     Last updated: 23.09.2014 at 09.53
The BBC Trust met today and received a report from the Director-General about a number of significant editorial matters including:

  • The promotion of a BBC One documentary about HM The Queen.
  • Breaches of BBC editorial standards during transmission of a children's programme TMi on BBC Two and CBBC in September 2006, Sport Relief on BBC One in July 2006, Comic Relief in March 2007, Children in Need on BBC One Scotland in November 2005, The Liz Kershaw Show on BBC 6 Music in 2006, White Label a BBC World Service programme broadcast up to April 2006, and information emerging about editorial breaches linked to numerous phone-in and interactive competitions.

The Director-General is issuing a separate management statement and information about these breaches and the immediate action he has proposed to the Trust at its request to address the underlying issues common to these editorial failings. The Trust has endorsed the Director-General's plan of action in general terms, but has also made the following points to him and has requested additional steps, as outlined below.

Statement by the BBC Trust

"The Trust is deeply concerned that significant failures of control and compliance within the BBC, and in some cases by its suppliers, have compromised the BBC's values of accuracy and honesty. These principles are at the heart of the BBC's mission and purpose.

"The BBC is owned and paid for by the public it seeks to serve and the BBC Trust represents their interests. The public has a right to expect the BBC to set the standards for editorial integrity in broadcasting and expect those in charge of the Corporation to protect the reputation of their public institution.

"Last week the Trust requested the Director-General to provide to its meeting today an early account of recent events, particularly in respect of the actions which led to misleading reports about HM The Queen, and information which was beginning to emerge about previously unreported incidents, together with an immediate action plan to address these failings.

"The Trust has previously made clear its position that the culture of the BBC must be such that any proposal to mislead audiences is instantly dismissed as wholly inappropriate. The Director-General's interim report to the Trust about additional editorial failings shows further deeply disappointing evidence of insufficient understanding amongst certain staff of the standards of accuracy and honesty expected, and inadequate editorial controls to ensure compliance with those standards. We have made clear that we regard any deception or breach of faith with our audiences as being utterly unacceptable.

"The primary responsibility for ensuring the culture of the BBC properly reflects the requirements of a public institution which exists on the basis of trust rests with the senior management team. We have underlined that and asked the Director-General with his Executive Board Directors to review the management structure with a view to strengthening the BBC's editorial controls and compliance procedures to ensure these are robust in all output areas. We do not want the BBC to assume that best practice in editorial compliance is limited to the BBC and have asked that compliance models elsewhere in the industry are examined as part of this process.

We welcome the Director-General's clear commitment to address the underlying causes of the problems which are now being identified. The immediate actions proposed, including a zero-tolerance approach and plans for extensive and mandatory training, are constructive and the Trust has agreed the Director-General's proposal that all BBC phone related and interactive competitions be suspended immediately until compliance with all regulatory requirements can be assured.

"We are not ready to draw a line under the editorial failures reported to us today. The Trust has requested detailed reports through its Editorial Standards Committee on all the editorial incidents, including those relating to the documentary programme about HM The Queen. We have also requested information on any disciplinary action undertaken by the Director-General and a full explanation as to whether any of these matters should have come to light during the Director of Vision's initial audit following the Blue Peter episode. Finally, we have requested new performance and disciplinary measures be considered for breaches of editorial standards.

"When we have received the Director-General's final report in the autumn we will consider if any additional and separate measures are necessary. Once the Director-General's action plan has been fully implemented we will carry out an independent review to satisfy ourselves of a distinct improvement in the BBC's attitude to safeguarding the public's trust. As the public's trust goes to the very heart of public service broadcasting and the BBC in particular, we intend to track public opinion as one of the Trust's tools for ensuring this vital ingredient to the BBC's relationship with licence fee payers is properly delivered.

In the meantime, our policy review by Ronald Neil on the BBC's use of premium rate phone lines and associated programme interactivity will commence as planned in August."

The Chairman is today writing to Buckingham Palace to apologise on behalf of the BBC Trust for the events surrounding the promotion of the documentary about HM The Queen.


Notes to editors

HM The Queen Documentary

The independent review of the promotion of the documentary about HM The Queen will be commissioned by the Director-General and will report to him. However, terms of reference and the appointment of the independent reviewer will be subject to the Trust's approval and the Director-General will submit the independent review to the Trust unexpurgated. This process is in line with the Neil Review of journalism carried out in 2004.