BBC Editorial Action Plan Bears Fruits

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson on Thursday updated the BBC Trust on the significant progress that the BBC has made in relation to the action plan announced on 18 July addressing serious breaches of editorial standards.The Director-General also notified the Trust of two further breaches that had come to light.

Neither of the two new cases revealed any new types of failing editorial practice which have not already been captured by the action plan, and both predate the commencement of the action plan. Both cases have also been reported to the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee and to Ofcom.

An Editorial Standards Board, a high level sub-committee of the BBC Direction Group chaired by Mark Byford, Deputy Director-General, was established last July. The Board has met 18 times and has driven and co-ordinated the BBC management’s response to the serious editorial breaches. In particular, the Board has established a comprehensive training programme for BBC staff, devised new guidance for running competitions on the BBC and reviewed editorial compliance procedures across the Corporation.

A major programme of communication on the seriousness of the incidents and the need to address them has taken place over the last six months. All competitions were suspended across the BBC until new guidance was developed and communicated. A new Code of Conduct for competitions and voting on the BBC was published on 21 November. Mandatory training for staff running competitions has preceded a phased return of competitions from this month. There will be fewer competitions across the BBC.

A mandatory training programme for all 17,000 programme and content staff, Safeguarding Trust, is well underway – more than 10,000 staff (58 per cent) have already attended – and a complementary internal website with a rich array of training materials has been launched to be used by BBC staff and independent programme makers.

The recommendations of the Wyatt Report, published on 5 October, which followed a serious editorial breach in relation to the promotion of a documentary series about The Queen, are being implemented in full and the progress on this is well advanced.

All Divisional boards now have a Board member designated to have special responsibility for ensuring editorial compliance processes are well understood and are robust across their Division.

In addition in BBC Vision, a full time Head of Editorial Standards and Training has been appointed. Similar appointments are being made in other BBC Divisions. RDF-owned suppliers are being returned to the commissioning arena in a phased manner.

Contracts for staff, freelancers and suppliers have been strengthened to emphasise the vital importance of adhering to the BBC’s editorial policies and values.

A new action plan around the use of telephony capping premium rate calls at 15 pence was announced on 30 December. The exception would be programmes directly related to charitable fundraising, such as BBC Children in Need.

The BBC is fully involved in sharing its initiatives with other parts of the industry and is supporting a pan-industry approach to training and editorial standards.

The Director-General updated the BBC Trust on two further instances in which competitions had breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines and which had been uncovered since his last report to the Trust in September.Jo Whiley Show, transmitted on BBC Radio 1 on 12 May 2006.

In a programme which was pre-recorded to permit essential engineering work in Radio 1’s studios, listeners were invited to enter a competition that had already been recorded with an on-air participant who was a listener who had expressed an interest in entering the competition the previous day. Although this person was a genuine member of the audience, the name of a second participant, mentioned on air, was invented, and listeners had been invited to telephone and text when in reality there was no opportunity to participate.

This breach occurred three weeks after the previously reported breach on this programme.Russell Brand Show transmitted on BBC 6 Music on
9 April 2006.

Conceived as a live show for 6 Music, the second edition of this new programme had to be recorded. In this programme, a competition winner was not a listener, but a member of BBC staff. Listeners who had called or sent texts to the programme had, in reality, no opportunity to participate.Three subsequent recorded editions of the programme made it clear at the outset that they were pre-recorded.

An apology to listeners is to be broadcast on both networks this week and the BBC is contacting listeners who sent texts to the programmes but were given no opportunity to participate, and offering them compensation.

Mark Thompson, BBC Director-General, said: “I am pleased to have been able to report considerable progress in delivering our action plan, which we will continue to pursue with vigour.”

On 8 March 2007 the BBC announced a review of programmes which used premium rate telephony.On 18 July 2007, the Director-General announced a package of tough measures to address the discovery of serious editorial breaches across some areas of BBC programmes and content. The Wyatt Report was published on 5 October. On 21 November, the BBC announced a new Code of Conduct for Competitions and voting on the BBC.

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