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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
BBC outlines post-Hutton reforms
Mark Thompson speaking to staff on Tuesday
Mark Thompson took up the post of BBC director general on Tuesday
The BBC has moved to strengthen its journalism and complaints procedures after criticism in the Hutton Report.

Plans to improve training and set up a college of journalism are included in a review led by former BBC news chief Ron Neil, unveiled on Wednesday.

Mr Neil also recommended an enhanced role for programme editors and lawyers in the corporation's editorial process.

He called for a "sea change in approach" to training to strengthen BBC journalism and improve competence.

The review led by Mr Neil, a former BBC director of news and current affairs, was held to determine the lessons that need to be learnt from the Hutton Inquiry.

Accurate and reliable note-taking as part of journalists' training
A need to demonstrate "fairness, openness and straight dealing"
Live "two way" broadcasts inappropriate for breaking stories containing serious allegations
Editorial lawyers a "routine fixture" in main news areas
Greater scrutiny of stories from anonymous sources

He said the BBC should continue to report stories based on single sources - but only where the story is of "significant public interest" and correct procedures are followed.

Audiences should be given "as much accurate information as is compatible with protecting the identity of the source" and descriptions should be consistent, he said.

And stories from anonymous sources should have "greater editorial scrutiny".

The Hutton Inquiry concluded that BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's report on Radio 4's Today programme into weapons of mass destruction on 29 May 2003 was "unfounded".

Mr Gilligan based the report on an off-the-record conversation with weapons expert Dr David Kelly, who later committed suicide.

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke and Michael Grade's predecessor as chairman, Gavyn Davies, left the corporation after Lord Hutton's report into events surrounding Dr Kelly's death.

Mr Neil said producers and presenters must clearly understand their responsibilities in adhering to the BBC's journalistic values.

Ron Neil
The BBC has an obligation to take the lead in strengthening training in craft skills
Ron Neil
Training must include accurate and reliable note-taking, while the need to demonstrate "fairness, openness and straight dealing" in BBC journalism was paramount.

Lessons from the Hutton affair also included the need for a system that encouraged fast clarification and correction. Staff at all levels should take part in a "continuous learning" process and learn from mistakes.

"As the largest employer of journalists in the UK, the BBC has an obligation to take the lead in strengthening training in craft skills and promoting debate about journalistic standards and ethics in broadcasting," the report said.

Mr Neil defined the core values of BBC journalism as truth and accuracy, serving the public interest, impartiality and diversity of opinion, independence and accountability.

"All programmes operating under the BBC's journalistic banner must work to the same values, professional disciplines and journalistic culture," he said.

Hopefully these changes will make the BBC less likely to fall into disrepute
L Mathers, Birmingham

The BBC has said it has already begun to act on the findings.

BBC director of news Richard Sambrook said he believed the recommendations would make BBC News "considerably stronger".

"The executive committee and the board of governors have approved all of the report and we will be implementing it in full," he said.

"I believe, together with the BBC's charter submission to be published later this month, it sets a clear course for BBC journalism for the years ahead."

The BBC will spend several million pounds setting up the training college, to be headed by an academic principal.

A team of senior news executives is planning the academy, which is expected to be up and running within 18 months.

It is envisaged as a large-scale, multi-million pound international institution that could help train staff from other news organisations.

Shadow culture secretary Julie Kirkbride
It sounds too much like a further widening of the BBC's activities beyond its core remit
Julie Kirkbride
Shadow culture secretary on BBC journalism college
The Neil Report comes a day after BBC director general Mark Thompson announced a restructuring of the BBC's management in his first day in the job.

A new board, led by his deputy Mark Byford, will oversee BBC journalism.

Mr Thompson replaces Greg Dyke, who resigned in the wake of the findings of the Hutton Report earlier this year.

Mr Thompson described the Neil Report as "a template for strengthening BBC journalism in the future".

Labour MP Chris Bryant, a member of the culture select committee, said the BBC was moving in the right direction.

"Nobody wants a supine, fully deferential BBC - but we do need to see that when the BBC says something, it isn't just recycling gossip," he said.

"Sometimes the BBC has followed newspapers' agendas rather too readily."

A spokeswoman for the office of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the Neil Report was "a matter for the BBC".

Shadow culture secretary Julie Kirkbride said she was not convinced by the proposed journalism college.

"It sounds too much like a further widening of the BBC's activities beyond its core remit, for which the licence-payer will have to pick up the bill," she said.


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