The BBC Trust Chairman, Lord Patten, has announced that the BBC has commissioned a review of its coverage of immigration in order to investigate allegations that it does not reflect all shades of opinion equally.
The BBC has a duty to be impartial written into its charter but some commentators, particularly those on the right, have accused it of bias on a range of issues. It is accused of being broadly left-wing, pro-immigration and pro-Europe.
The BBC has faced accusations that it has failed to address arguments against mass immigration in its factual programming. Indeed, the recently departed director general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, who left the corporation in September, has admitted that the BBC was 'reticent talking about immigration.'
Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild, Lord Patten said 'We've been criticised and we think it's very important to listen to that criticism, not necessarily because we think it's right but because it reflects real and interesting concerns'.
The BBC is required to treat all controversial subjects with 'due impartiality'. There is some debate as to what 'due' means. It is not required to be absolutely neutral on every subject but it should, generally, allow conflicting viewpoints to find equal expression.
The 'Biased-BBC' website lists numerous complaints from listeners about coverage of immigration. Complaints include
• presenters accepting uncritically the word of asylum seekers
• programmes presenting sentimentally pro-immigration arguments
• the distortion of immigration statistics
• the emotive and partial treatment of the issues in reports on immigration
The BBC Trust, the governing body of the corporation, has announced that it has commissioned Stuart Prebble, a former executive at Sky, the satellite broadcast company, to conduct an independent review. Mr Prebble will report in 2013. If any allegations of bias, whether deliberate or unintentional, are substantiated, then the BBC will act to change them. Mr Prebble will examine the BBC's news, current affairs and factual programming from 2012/13 by comparing it with output from 2007.
Mr Prebble's remit is to 'investigate whether decisions to include or omit perspectives in news and current affairs coverage have been reasonable and carefully reached' according to a statement released by the BBC Trust.
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