BBC unveils its new-look complaints code

The BBC has announced long-awaited reforms to its programme complaints procedure, which it says will simplify the process for the public to lodge grievances and speed up the issuing of corrections where appropriate.

A new head of complaints (governance) will be appointed to report directly to BBC governors and a complaints code of practice has been published on the BBC website to take effect from the autumn.

The announcement came this week following a three-month review of complaints led by BBC deputy director general Mark Byford. The reforms will incorporate recommendations made by the Neil Report review into BBC editorial processes, published last month. Byford will also chair a new complaints management board.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said the reforms signalled that the BBC wanted to “begin with the presumption that the licence payer is right, not wrong. There will be greater willingness at the BBC to admit mistakes and where appropriate put things right,” he added.

However, the NUJ has lobbied the broadcaster to ensure that any journalists’ concerns regarding complaints about their programmes were also taken into account. BBC director of news Richard Sambrook is understood to have agreed that producer guidelines will include a draft to cover the viewpoints of the programmes’ makers.

According to the new procedures, “very serious” editorial complaints will be “red flagged” to ensure they are fast-tracked. Such complaints would include those from parties directly concerned, issues of fair dealing, legal issues and challenges, and charges of major inaccuracies, the BBC said.

In a move designed to illustrate a degree of fairness within the new procedure and a determination not to be cowed into action, the BBC said the decision to “red flag” a complaint “will depend on the nature of the complaint, and not on the importance of the person making it”.

It also said the decision of the editorial complaints unit, formerly the programmes complaints unit, “will be binding on programme-making or output departments”.

By Wale Azeez

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