BBC Trust raps Today programme over Tibet interview

The BBC Trust has ruled that Radio 4’s Today programme breached impartiality guidelines when it interviewed an academic about Tibet without mentioning his political affiliation.

Professor Barry Sautman of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology appeared on Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme last March to discuss the demonstrations taking place in Tibet.

One listener complained that Sautman, who is unsympathetic to the Tibetan independence movement, was introduced only by his name and university, and it had not been made clear what his political stance was.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines state: “We should not automatically assume that academics and journalists from other organisations are impartial and make it clear to our audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint.”

The Trust’s editorial standards committee said it was “appropriate for the programme to have presented a perspective that accorded with that of the Chinese government in order to provide balance”.

It said that while many people would disagree with Sautman, he was a credible choice of interviewee, as he has published many books on the subject of Tibet under Chinese rule.

But it partially upheld the complaint, agreeing that Sautman’s political views should have been mentioned when he was introduced.

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