BBC publishes whistleblower policy for staff and freelancers

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BBC

The BBC has published a whistleblower policy to provide staff and freelancers with a “confidential mechanism” to raise concerns about the broadcaster’s activities.

The move comes as part of an update to its impartiality plan, which was announced last October as part of a campaign to ensure its content is fair, accurate and unbiased.

The 10-point action plan was published in response to the BBC’s Serota review of governance and culture, which made a number of recommendations on improving editorial standards.

The review itself was launched following the publication of Lord Dyson’s scathing report into the circumstances surrounding Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

In the new progress report, the BBC says the whistleblower policy aims to “encourage anyone with honest concerns to report them”, including in relation to editorial issues.

He notes that “usually” concerns can be resolved informally or formally through channels such as the use of the company’s management chain and other policies already in place, including those relating to grievances and the fight against bullying and harassment.

However, it also says that if individuals are “not comfortable” using these routes or if the issue raised is not resolved, the new policy “provides a range of other ways to report the issue” .

The broadcaster has also updated the way it deals with expedited complaints and created a new process for editorial inquiries initiated by the BBC.

Another update to the plan is that programs have been selected for the first internal content reviews, which will assess editorial standards and culture, including impartiality, freedom of expression, diversity of voices, accuracy, fairness and trust.

The shows chosen are BBC Breakfast, Countryfile and the morning newscasts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The BBC said these selections were not made due to particular issues of impartiality.

The BBC also said more than 24,000 people had taken “tailored impartiality training” since January 2021, with all new entrants required to take it.

Peter Johnston, the BBC’s director for Northern Ireland, spearheaded the plan’s implementation.

He said: “The public expect impartiality and high editorial standards from the BBC, and our top priority is to do all we can to maintain their trust and tackle perceptions of bias.

“We are making good progress with the action plan and the hard work continues.”

BBC Director General Tim Davie added: “The BBC is consistently seen as the most trusted source of news by the public – but we don’t take anything for granted.

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Sir Nicholas Serota led Serota’s review in the broadcaster (Yui Mok/PA)

“That is why it is essential to ensure extraordinarily high standards of impartiality for all of our content.

“This work is done at a steady pace. We will do things right. We need a BBC in which everyone can have a high level of trust.

The Serota review, led by Arts Council England chairman Sir Nicholas Serota, was commissioned by the BBC’s board following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report in May 2021.

He said the risk of editorial standards being circumvented by staff “has been greatly reduced over the past 25 years”.

However, he found that some investigations into potential rule violations “were too slow to gather the facts, leaving staff to deal with hostile media and public backlash.”

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