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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Impact of new BBC guidelines
BBC Head of News Richard Sambrook

The BBC is making changes to the way its journalists gather and report news, including establishing a journalism training college.

The new guidelines place emphasis on accurate note-taking and suggest that serious allegations should not be broken in live broadcasts.

The guidelines were revised former BBC News chief Ron Neil in response to the Hutton report into the death of Doctor David Kelly.

Mr Neil has also called for a "sea change in approach" and strengthening the role of programme editors and lawyers in the editorial process.

What is your reaction to the Neil report? Will the changes make a difference? How has the Hutton report affected the BBC's reputation? Do you still trust the BBC?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your comments:

This back to basics approach can only be a good thing in my book
Frank, Cambridge

Over the past 15 years, much of the BBC's news reporting has become lazy, sensationalist or biased. This back to basics approach can only be a good thing in my book.
Frank, Cambridge, UK

I recall the many times Private Eye was successfully sued by Robert Maxwell when they printed what turned out to be true. Good journalism requires a little risk taking to get at the truth. Lawyers in the BBC newsroom, what nonsense! Tony Blair will be delighted.
Richard Atkins, Wortham, UK

Does anyone other than the BBC even care? Everyone knows Hutton was a white wash. Stop beating yourself up BBC and keep doing what your good at, reporting the news in detail to a public that respects and loves you.
Arron Clements, Coventry, UK

I hope these new guidelines will be fair to non-Muslims and Hindus. You better wake up before substantial community revolt against you.
Suresh Chandarana, Borehamwood, England

I hope the BBC will now break out of its post-Hutton shell
Nigel, Redhill

I hope the BBC will now break out of its post-Hutton shell, in which it has seemed frightened and cowed by events into pursuing safe, anodyne, populist lines instead of going after stories as it should. Let Humphreys off the leash again!
Nigel, Redhill, UK

I hope there is as little change as possible. The BBC works just fine the way it is - irrespective of Hutton.
John, Fleet, UK

Sounds to me like the BBC will always be 100% right now but about nothing of any importance. It isn't important to be 100% accurate initially. It is important not to try and cover up your mistakes though. They are going about this all the wrong way... as usual.
John Sinclair, Dundee, UK

Many universities run media courses which would bring a wider and varied range of ideas and styles of reporting
Cindy Ash, London
Surely the danger is that a college of journalism run by the BBC, will, rather like a military Staff College, produce clones of those running it? Many universities run media courses which would bring a wider and varied range of ideas and styles of reporting. And a clear mission is required: over the last 15 years or so I get the impression that the BBC including its World Service sometimes does not know whether its role is to tell the world about events in UK or tell UK about world events.
Cindy Ash, London

I dispute that a "sea change" is needed. Gilligan's story was immensely important and the BBC did us all a great service by broadcasting it. As far as I am concerned, the BBC has the balance right without any changes whatsoever.
Peter Thanisch, Edinburgh

I am still incensed by Hutton and the over-reaction of both Campbell and the BBC governors. There have been far too many apologies. Get back off that back foot.
Den, Brighton

I must say that the notion that the BBC is a "left leaning" news source strikes this American as absurd. Like our own media, the BBC seems to follow the government line for the most part. I hope the new guidelines aren't an effort to ensure that there are no deviations.
Robert, El Prado, USA

The quality of news is inversely proportional to the quantity
Paul Hardwick, Preston UK
It seems that the quality of news is inversely proportional to the quantity. We have news programmes coming out of our ears - films interrupted because of the news (and generally there isn't anything new to report). When the quantity was low, say back in the eighties, the news programmes dealt with real issues in a sensible way. Now they deal with sensationalism and tabloid production values.
Paul Hardwick, Preston UK

I see far too many comments these days - including one here from "Steve Wakefield, UK" - about the British licence payer being forced to pay for the BBC's global aspirations. One thing should be made clear - the British licence fee payer pays up only for British services; those BBC channels that broadcast around the world - and the UKTV channels in the UK - are funded by commercial money, from subscriptions and advertising revenue. But this is simply an irritating detraction from the core of the debate, and one which is thrust about far too often.

The central issues are important ones, those of whether the BBC needs to change and, if so, to what extent. Few would disagree that the Corporation does need to get with the times, and the Hutton mess exposed flaws in the working processes of the Corporation. Perhaps a simple reworking of these processes will suffice; on the other hand, the conflicting interests of the Governors' roles exposes greater underlying flaws in the BBC's management structure. Although the new director-general has outlined some positive steps towards a stronger BBC, I believe these will - and indeed should - be only the tip of the iceberg, in ensuring that the BBC remains a world leader.
Andy Weir, Richmond-upon-Thames, UK

What ever happened to reporting both sides of the story?
Bill, Fairfax

I think Fox News in the US is on the money when it describes how anti-American the BBC has become. It is sad that the BBC, once well regarded for its objectivity, is now so obviously anti-American. What ever happened to reporting both sides of the story? The slants you spin on your news stories are extreme. What ever happened to fair and balanced reporting?
Bill, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

To be honest I don't believe much of what I read or hear on the BBC. I can't be the only one. If these guidelines can restore the faith of people like me then it will be a success.
Mark, Notts

I think we still have a first class BBC with top reporters who try to keep a balance. In my opinion they have had to act as a break sometimes on the mismanagement of the government where we have had no effective opposition to even up the score. I hope this is not the beginning of the end of our democracy and that we can have an open and honest BBC as long as the government of the day choose the reporters!
Juliet, Cornwall, UK

The BBC needs to stop spinning every story to gain maximum sensationalism. Lets hope the new training will put an end to stories with crises or disaster in the headlines, as it is rare for a real story to fall under these headings. Its quite fun to try to match the headlines at the front of the news to the actual stories, often they bare no relationship at all! Give us the facts please, that's all anyone wants.
JG, Scotland, UK

The BBC must stand for objective, balanced and factual reporting of news. Fact should be clearly separated from opinion and the basis for all choices on what is broadcast and what is not broadcast should be written down, agreed and published. Only if the BBC follows such principles can it regain its crown as the best news source.
Graham Shelton, Oxford, England

I live in the US and there are plenty of news stations I could watch, but none of them is as reliable as the BBC.
Ridwan, MD, USA

Personally, I think the BBC does a great job. But why don't the guidelines also mention how journalists are expected to resist the pressures put on them to take sides? Pressures include; being singled out by media watches and other lobbies in the Middle East conflict, by threats of juridical action, by parliamentary groups or by industrial interests.
Shaun Smyth, Divonne, France

Leave opinion forming to the viewers and listeners
Dylan Todd, London

The BBC as a whole is okay. The main problem lies with BBC News. There is too much idle and bias speculation on current news which is also frequently over dramatised for effect. Leave opinion forming to the viewers and listeners. A training college? Who thinks up these ideas? I suppose you could film it as a TV series. You learn by watch and reading reports from John Simpson and Martha Gellhorn.
Dylan Todd, London

So lawyers in the newsroom as a result of the Neil Inquiry. What a disgrace Blair and that whitewash Hutton report. To fetter the worlds finest news organisation will ensure Blair looses the nest election.
Gregory Peacock, London, UK

As I stood at the Baghdad International Airport, I heard Andrew Gilligan claim the US was lying about being there. BBC correspondents did their best to point out US troops to the Arab networks, who then told our opposition where we were. I can't imagine that these rules will overcome biases of reporters. I will never trust BBC again, and my troops don't assist them or cooperate with them beyond what's necessary to assure their safety.
US Army Captain, Iraq

Why is everyone assuming the BBC is leftist? Objective analysis reveals the BBC's pro-war and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian bias. To its credit, it's not as right leaning as most other British media.
Rita, Egypt

As a former UK journalist, I find it surprising that accurate note-taking has to be stressed to BBC journalists. In my job it was expected that notes were clear, accurate and filed in a way that they could quickly be found. Also, any editor worth his/her salt would already be a key person in the development/delivery of a story - if they aren't, then why are they doing the job? After all, the buck stops with the editor. And as for lawyers being more closely involved - is this just an easy way for them to rake in yet more cash?!
Jocelyn, UK

The Hutton report outlined, the changes the BBC has to take, in order certify the real facts, instead of simple assertions, although what Andrew Gilligan reported was true, it was not accurate, and so therefore liable to deception.
Oliver Woods, London

It is all very sad. The BBC did the right thing to stand up to Blair's lies over WMD. It doesn't need reform. The real reform needed in the British media, is the banning of foreign newspaper owners and a ban on the government being able to leak stories to their favoured editors.
James, Rhayader, Mid Wales, UK

The BBC has become a mouthpiece for a particular political point of view
L Abel, Atlanta

One thing is for sure: the BBC has become a mouthpiece for a particular political point of view, and is in no way neutral in its reporting, especially when it comes to geopolitics. This point of view is most decidedly Anti-American.
L Abel, Atlanta, USA

No news network is independent/neutral. BBC is just too politically correct. To me BBC did not go far enough in its coverage of Iraq war and story on Dr Kelly. Now we know that BBC was right on both counts.
Raj, India

Pound for pound the BBC is the best out there. Management always needs to be shaken up but the tyre meets the road with your excellent reporters. Several should have won Pulitzers many times over. Hillary Andersson should get one for her spot on reports out of Darfur. Trim the ship and come about into the wind.
William L Donlon, Rochester, New York, USA

Anything would be an improvement. The BBC is so infested with its own deep-set left-wing political agendas that it has long since ceased to merely report the facts. Everything is nuanced with a dripping, nauseating cynicism as long as it's about the West, the USA, Bush, Iraq and the War on Terrorism. And no, I don't trust the BBC and haven't for a long time.
Peter C Kohler, Washington DC, USA

The reporters don't need to be any less forthright, just a bit more careful how they say it
Keith L, Rayleigh England

A lot of what has happened was the result of what Campbell claimed to be righteous indignation but now it is clear that the general trend of what Gilligan had to say was justified. So the reporters don't need to be any less forthright, just a bit more careful how they say it, because I believe an essential part of our freedom as a nation is rooted in the BBC.
Keith L, Rayleigh England

The whole package of measures may contribute to a raising of standards throughout broadcasting and, eventually, could restore the worldwide reputation of the BBC. I hope so.
Andrew Dundas, Ilkley UK

I suppose this is just another nail in the BBC coffin. We will have to look to other news services for current news and serious investigative journalism as opposed to a string of regurgitated "official press releases". If the politicians aren't complaining you aren't shaking the trees hard enough!
Rex Lester, Chessington UK

I hope so. I used to be a big fan of the BBC
Tony, Houston, TX, USA

I hope so. I used to be a big fan of the BBC, but in the past several years have seen a more biased, critical brand of journalism come to light. Now I only read/watch/listen to the BBC when there is nothing else to do.
Tony, Houston, TX, USA

On the BBC bias subject, it has to be noted that people always see the bias in terms of that which is opposite to their own political view, i.e. the right-wing sees a left-wing bias. In reality, it's simply the only centrist newsgroup in a sea of right-wingers.
AH, UK

Hopefully it will end the 'love-in' the BBC has with this Govt., and with New Labour. So called 'political news' just becomes a party political broadcast for Labour, and as a former big fan of the BBC, I hope it changes for the good. Incidentally, wasn't the Hutton Enquiry set up to find out why Dr. Kelly took his own life? I doubt it was because of the BBC, but the corporation was willing to take the blame instead of upsetting the Govt.
Anon, England

I trust the BBC more than I trust any Government
Richard Crossley, Ireland, Ex UK

I look forward to hearing the news without the reporter's opinion being worn on his sleeve. During the Iraq war, it was clear to most of us that the BBC was strongly anti-war. This bias coloured the reporting/interviewing at almost every level.
Pete, Birmingham UK

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

Hopefully these changes will make the BBC less likely to fall into disrepute and will help it to regain the confidence of its listeners and viewers. It can only be a positive move.
L Mathers, Birmingham

If only the government could subject itself to self critical scrutiny like the BBC does. I still trust the BBC and always have, I know that the BBC will always do all it can to improve its services and tell the truth. I do not trust the government to do the same.
Sam, UK

Considering that last night Clinton's flagrant lie - that Saddam kicked out the inspectors in 1998 - went unchallenged by your star reporter, probably not a lot. This from the 'un-American' and 'politically correct' BBC?
Patrick O'Brien, London

Some of the things (increased competence, continuous learning) should not have needed Hutton. The big worry is whether there will be a greater capacity for the government to lie and lie and lie if they know journalists will be reluctant to rely on single sources heavily.
Howard Davies, Reading UK

I doubt that the changes will make much difference
Steve Wakefield, UK

I doubt that the changes will make much difference. I used to trust the BBC but in the last few years it seems to have become excessively London-oriented on the one hand, and far too internationalist on the other. It no longer recognises the lives of people like me or of Britain outside London in so many BBC programmes. There is little really "British" about it any more except the fact that the British alone are expected to fund this global corporation.
Steve Wakefield, UK

Hopefully a lot, but I would not hold my breath! Given the anti-American and anti-Blair bias the corporation has already instilled into its Journalists, they would all have to go back to college to learn what balanced reporting is.
Barry Lowry, Hornchurch UK

Why does the BBC need to change?
Richard Read, London, UK

Hopefully none. The BBC had far less to do with the death of Doctor David Kelly than his own actions or those of the government's and almost all of Andrew Gilligan's accusations against the government have now been shown to be true so why does the BBC need to change?
Richard Read, London, UK

The problem with the BBC is that it is pursuing a soft, left, politically correct agenda particularly in regard to the Iraq war and the situation in Israel. I would hope for some objectivity.
Dave, Sheffield

I would have thought journalists would have been fully trained BEFORE joining the BBC. I think these ideas are overkill because of one (albeit serious) mistake. I hope it will be the editors and not the lawyers controlling the editorial process. It looks to me as if the BBC is going too far.
Alan, Sevenoaks, Kent

Any news organisation that presents unconfirmed allegations and rumour as news cannot expect to be taken seriously; publishing, and adhering to, these standards can only help to enforce BBC's position of trust.
Paul, Birmingham

I hope it will improve the standard of journalism and reduce the overtly biased reporting
Tom Grzelinski, Bath, Somerset

I hope it will improve the standard of journalism and reduce the overtly biased reporting that has been seen in recent years on the BBC such as it's various programmes around the country vilifying motorcyclists and presenting false facts to make them out as a danger to society.
Tom Grzelinski, Bath, Somerset

How ironic that the BBC, one of the most reliable (and objective) sources of information has to go through this and the Tabloids can continue with their lies, political and social agendas, hiding behind the "freedom of speech" principle. In the case of the Tabloids, it is "freedom to lie".
Edward, UK

You can train all you like and change the system but you will still have the same contempt for the populace. Rather than provide a window on the world you provide a hall of mirrors.
Paul, London

I am not sure what the changes are but changes do need to be made. The Iraq conflict highlighted a problem in the BBC journalistic approach which appeared immature, irresponsible and left wing orientated. This has to be addressed but with the appointment of the ex Channel 4 personnel this does not give much confidence.
John Karran, Merseyside, UK

I don't think the BBC should have to spend licence fee money on a training college
Steve, Halifax, UK

I don't think the BBC should have to spend licence fee money on a training college. There are plenty of universities already accepting public money to run media studies courses. Journalistic ethics should be a mandatory part of all of these courses, and include mandatory sessions on the Hutton report and its implications for all journalism, whether print, Web, TV or radio. As far as I'm concerned, the Hutton report hasn't affected my opinion of the BBC at all - but it has adversely affected my already low opinion of this government.
Steve, Halifax, UK

Accuracy, fairness and accountability in Journalism? This can only be a good thing both for the BBC's reputation and trust factor. Let's hope it spreads to the Tabloids where the norm seems to be to print allegations without any real backup while ruining the reputations of innocent people.
Ian, Aberdeen, Scotland

I trust the BBC a great deal more than any other broadcaster and infinitely more than any government or the epitome of bad rulings, Lord Hutton.
A Sweeting, Leicester, UK

It concerns me that the BBC feels the need to make such radical changes. As far as I'm aware the public consensus is that the Hutton report was grossly unfair to the BBC, and that the general thrust of Gilligan's report was justified. Good journalism shouldn't be afraid to question government and, occasionally, upset it. These reforms are unnecessary, and I worry we may be facing a new emasculated BBC. I thought the BBC had decided to stop apologising?
Daniel, London, UK

To my mind the BBC has always seemed to report facts, truths and an overview of the situation
Charlie, Bedford UK

I have always trusted the BBC's News articles. However I was shocked at the seemingly un-researched information provided by the BBC in the case in question. To my mind the BBC has always seemed to report facts, truths and an overview of the situation. Leave the embellishments and the Chinese whispers to the tabloids or the like. Stick to what you know, which is excellent reporting without biased or personal opinion.
Charlie, Bedford UK

I still trust the BBC as being the only media within the UK to report accurate, honest and UNBIAST factual news. The Hutton report was a political exercise that was never given the scope to determine the full truth of the affair. I do believe however that any initiatives by Mr Neil to reinforce and maintain the BBC's credibility are worthwhile.
David, Livingston, Scotland

Over the past few years, through the Iraq war and Hutton report, I've not spoken to a single person who would trust the government over the BBC.
Mark Woodward, Stoke-on-Trent, England

In all seriousness I hope that the new guidelines also remind journalists - that they are not the story and that the person being interviewed is the centre of the interview and NOT the journalist.
Mike Barton, London, England





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