BBC to review impartiality of its Arab Spring coverage

The BBC Trust has launched a review into the impartiality of its coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The review, led by former UN director of communications Edward Mortimer, will look at the BBC’s coverage beginning with events in Tunisia in December 2010 through to Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.

It will look at output on BBC national TV and radio, online and BBC World News.

‘The events that came to be known as the Arab Spring were extremely fast-moving and complex,’said Alison Hastings, chair of the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.

‘That makes it a difficult story to cover. The challenge for the BBC, as with all controversial areas, is to ensure that it maintains the high standards of impartiality and accuracy that audiences expect, both in the UK and around the world, where many rely on the BBC’s international news services.”

Mortimer said that events in the Middle East in the last year had ‘up-ended many widely accepted notions about the region”, adding: ‘Such stories are always the most exciting for journalists to cover, but also present many challenges.

‘It will be fascinating to examine in detail how the BBC rose to these.”

Mortimer will be tasked with asking:

  • ‘Has there been an omission of an important perspective which might jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality?
  • ‘Has the coverage avoided reinforcing generalisations which lack relevant evidence?
  • ‘Has the coverage given due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument as it affects a particular uprising or conflict?”

This is the fourth impartiality review carried out by the Trust. The others were: coverage of business (2007), network news and current affairs coverage of the UK nations (2008), and science (2011).

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