Public to shape BBC editorial standards

Wednesday, October 7 2009, 14:34 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC Trust has launched a public consultation for licence fee payers to have their say on the editorial standards governing all BBC programming.

A revised draft of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines was published today by the Trust as part of its five-yearly review of BBC programming standards.

Based around The Royal Charter, the editorial values focus primarily on "truth and accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion, editorial integrity and independence, avoiding harm and offence, serving the public interest, fairness, privacy, children, transparency and accountability".

The Trust also stipulated new guidelines for the corporation to help viewers "get the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services".

The review process started at the beginning of this year when the Trust asked the BBC Executive to examine its own Editorial Guidelines.

For the first time, the public will also be able to give feedback on the standards during the Trust's 12-week consultation up to December 24.

Richard Tait, chair of the Trust's editorial standards committee, said: "The Trust's job is to represent licence fee payers - we know that they expect the BBC to set and meet the highest standards, and rightly so.

"The Editorial Guidelines exist to guide programme makers in making considered editorial decisions which balance freedom of expression with their responsibilities to the audience, contributors and others.

"Public acceptability is constantly changing, so it is right that we should reflect on the standards the BBC should be setting, as well as ask licence fee payers what they think when reviewing the guidelines. That's why we are actively seeking their views in this first ever consultation."

BBC Editorial Guidelines apply to all BBC content made in-house or by third-party organisations for the corporation's radio, TV, online, mobile or interactive platforms. Following the review, the newly-agreed standards will come into force in summer 2010.

The public consultation follows a series of high profile scandals involving BBC programming, including the Manuelgate fiasco when Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand left prank messages on the answer machine of Andrew Sachs during Brand's BBC Radio 2 show.

Back in 2007, Blue Peter was fined £50,000 by Ofcom after faking a competition to raise money for Unicef and BBC One controller Peter Fincham resigned after a mis-edited trailer appeared to show the Queen storming out of a photoshoot.

The Trust has also launched a separate review into BBC compliance procedures in non-news areas around the Manuelgate scandal, with former Ofcom partner Tim Suter and former Radio Authority chief executive Tony Stoller leading the consultation.