Grade pledges impartial BBC

By John Donnelly

BBC chairman Michael Grade has reinforced the corporation’s
continued commitment to impartiality in the future as the digital
switchover nears.

In his Goodman Media Lecture last week, Grade acknowledged that the
abundance of spectrum space available made the argument for a blanket
imposition of impartiality on broadcasters harder to justify. And he
stressed that the American model, although many years ahead of the UK,
served as a stark warning for what could be in store here.

“Religious groups with distinct positions on many sensitive areas of the political agenda have become broadcasters,”

Grade
said. “These religious groups are now turning their attention towards
the big network broadcasters, mounting successful campaigns not just to
express their own values and attitudes but also to restrict those of
others.”

Grade said that as the digital universe unraveled, and
limitless new providers can join the market, broadcasting will become
for the first time directly comparable to the press. But he added that
it was precisely for this reason that impartiality was so important.

“In
a digital universe of Daily Mails of the air, and Guardian Newspapers
of the air, and almost certainly of wellfunded faith-based
broadcasters, I would expect that there would still be an overwhelming
demand for an impartial BBC, because as much as people like opinions,
they want the impartially reported version too.”

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