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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Bowen Middle East role 'enhanced'
Jeremy Bowen
Jeremy Bowen was appointed Middle East Editor in June 2005
The role of BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen is to be "enhanced" as the corporation strengthens its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The move forms part of a plan by BBC managers to address criticisms made in a recent report.

The BBC will also appoint a dedicated West Bank reporter to complement its existing correspondent in Gaza.

But the corporation has rejected the report's recommendation to install an extra layer of editorial management.

In its response to the report, commissioned by the Board of Governors in October 2005, the BBC said: "We recognise the need to build further on the quality and depth of our journalism."

'Incomprehension'

Bowen, who was appointed Middle East editor in June 2005, will have a greater role "in helping to formulate the BBC's overall coverage strategy".

He will also be asked to explain background and context to big stories more fully on high-profile programmes such as Today and the Ten O'Clock News.

And he will report to the corporation's news editorial board meetings on previous and forthcoming stories.

The BBC has accepted the report's recommendation that more should be done to "explain the complexities of the conflict" and tackle the audience's "high level of incomprehension".

The BBC News website is to trial a new series, Undercurrent Affairs, to explore the background and context of the long-running conflict.

This will take the form of audio and video "explainers" that may be available to podcast.

In addition, a shorter version of the BBC's style guide, issued to journalists in 2005, will be published to clarify the use of language and terminology.

'Value judgements'

But managers have stopped short of adopting the "Guiding Hand" the panel proposed to provide "more secure editorial planning, grip and oversight".

"BBC News already has in place a firm structure for planning and overseeing our coverage of the conflict," the corporation said.

An extra layer of management, it said, "could undermine the independence and accountability of BBC editors".

Managers also questioned the use of the word "terrorism" as defined in the independent report, chaired by British Board of Film Classification president Sir Quentin Thomas.

In the report, "terrorism" was described as "the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror".

Such a definition, executives argued, "would exclude attacks on soldiers" and oblige journalists to make "the very value judgements" they are asked to avoid making under the BBC's editorial guidelines.


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