DCMS – BIAS AT THE BBC – 9 March 2005

[Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (John Whittingdale): Another issue that has given rise to, if anything, even more concern, is the BBC's decision in the past few days to pay Mr. Brendan Fearon £4,500 for his contribution to a documentary on the Tony Martin case. The BBC says that there was an exceptional public interest in that payment and that the documentary would not have presented a full picture without Mr. Fearon's contribution. The latter point may well be true, but that does not necessarily mean that there was an exceptional public interest. There is a widespread view that the BBC got it wrong, and I should like it to say so.]

Dr Julian Lewis: It is to the credit of the BBC that, in the course of an extensive interview with the person who produced that programme, also interviewed was the former BBC senior employee, now retired, who had drawn up the very guidelines that the programme's producer was praying in aid to justify it. The person who had drawn up the guidelines was sufficiently outraged to say that he had never meant them to be used in that way.

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[Mr Whittingdale: ... when the BBC, having dismissed such complaints [that it has a biased agenda] for many years, finally set up an independent group to examine the question, it concluded that the BBC "suffers from certain forms of cultural and unintentional bias" and that, despite the good intentions of producers, "nobody thinks the outcome is impartial". ... ]

Dr Lewis: Could that institutional and cultural bias have something to do with the fact that the BBC advertises for recruitment purposes far more in the media columns of the Guardian than in all the other newspapers put together?

[Mr Whittingdale: That could certainly have a great deal to do with it. I believe that the BBC is finally trying to put that right, but of course generations of BBC employees have already been recruited through the pages of the Guardian.]