Trust will police 'impartial reporting' at corporation

By David rose

The BBC’s new watchdog will be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that BBC journalists are accurate and impartial.

As first disclosed by Press Gazette on 3 March 2005, following the publication of the Green Paper on the BBC, the Government is to write the requirement in the corporation’s charter when it is renewed next year.

A draft charter released with the Government’ White Paper this week says the new BBC Trust, replacing the present governors, will be required "to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas".

In doing so, the Trust must have regard, among other things, to promoting understanding of the UK political system "including Parliament and the devolved structures), including dedicated coverage of Parliamentary matters, and an impartial day-by-day account of the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament".

It will also have to have regard to "the need to promote media literacy"

and to the "importance of sustaining citizenshire through the enrichment of the public realm".

Day-to-day running of the BBC will be left to an executive board headed by the director general, while the Trust, with new appointees but headed by the BBC chairman, will be expected to safeguard the licence fee payer.

Media Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "The BBC will have a role to promote media literacy. It can help ensure that viewers and listeners understand how the media works, how it influences our lives and how it can best be used. In this age these are not peripheral skills. They are starting to match the importance of other forms of literacy to work and leisure, and to the functioning of democracy."

The Government’s White Paper states: "From our research and consultation it is clear that licence fee payers place a very high premium on accuracy and impartiality, particularly in news and current affairs.

"They see the BBC as standing out from the rest. The Trust will no doubt wish to ensure that its plans maintain the BBC as the UK’s most trusted provider of news, and that it continues to reach audiences with news tailored to the particular needs of its different audiences, for example Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

"In this context, licence fee payers will welcome the moves the BBC has already made to strengthen its journalism."

When she published her Green Paper Jowell served notice on the BBC that it was expected to implement the core recommendations of the Neil report, commissioned following the row with the BBC over claims by journalist Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme that Downing Street had exaggerated the threat to justify war against Iraq.

The Government’s White Paper also requires the BBC to provide news and current affairs on television at a regional level and maintain the network of local radio services and locallyfocused internet sites.

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