BBC urged to improve its coverage of Europe

By Caitlin Pike

An
independent report commissioned by BBC Governors into the BBC’s news
coverage of Europe has called for urgent action to be taken by the BBC
to provide “accessible information on Europe”

for viewers.

The report also found there is a “widespread
perception that the BBC suffers from certain forms of cultural and
unintentional bias and that the coverage needs to be made more
demonstrably impartial”.

Within the published report were written
submissions to the governors from interested parties, including think
tanks and political parties.

A written submission from the
Cabinet Office said they thought the BBC’s coverage of Europe had
strengths worth highlighting, including some journalists’ expertise.

However,
they complained the BBC did, in some cases, use Eurosceptic newspaper
stories to direct their coverage of the subject: “The BBC is no doubt
aware of the risks associated with using newspapers to source stories
and information about Europe, but it is important that it can
demonstrate it has a wide range of other sources for research and
briefing and that its editorial systems allow it to scrutinise the
vocabulary used and arguments relayed to ensure a balanced view is
always presented.”

The pro-European organisation, Britain in
Europe, also expressed concern that the BBC hijacked the press, led
stories with a tabloid agenda and that coverage was lacking in original
journalism.

Another criticism levied at the BBC by the Centre for
European Reform was that Newsnight and the Radio Four Today programme
conducts debates on Europe that are too bi-polar and that European
issues are presented in the style of a “punch and judy show”.

In
response to the report BBC News said: “We are pleased that the group
has concluded that there is no deliberate bias in our reporting of the
European Union.

“However, we need to consider carefully their view that ‘there is a perception of cultural and unintentional bias’

in some of our coverage.

“We
agree that the subject of Europe is extremely complex and challenging
and one where we need to review any weaknesses and develop a stronger
creative response.”

The BBC governors have asked BBC management
to submit their response to the independent panel’s report and
recommendations by the end of February. The governors will then publish
that response along with a decision on what action is necessary for BBC
news to improve its coverage of Europe.

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