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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
BBC delay on sensitive live news
Beslan siege
Live coverage of the Beslan siege featured some graphic images
Live coverage of sensitive news events such as the Beslan school siege could be broadcast on the BBC in future with a time delay.

The policy is set out in Editorial Guidelines coming into effect in July.

Caution over showing sensitive footage is not new at the corporation but it is the first time a delay has explicitly been written into guidelines.

There is also a written commitment that "accuracy is more important than speed" in breaking news.

The Editorial Guidelines will replace the BBC Producers' Guidelines which have been revised to reflect Ofcom's new broadcasting code and the "changing media environment".

"The guidelines are part of our contract with our audiences," said Stephen Whittle, BBC Controller of Editorial Policy.

"These are our editorial ethics and values and the standards we set for ourselves. We intend to live and be judged by them."

'Upsetting' images

Last September, the BBC and most other TV news networks reported live from the scene of the Beslan siege in Russia, in which more than 330 people lost their lives.

The coverage fuelled a debate over whether some of the images were too graphic for audiences.

One of the new BBC directives states a delay "must be installed when broadcasting live coverage of sensitive and challenging events".

New editorial guidelines
The new set of guidelines has 197 pages

The delay - the length of which will be left to the discretion of the editor in charge - would allow time to exclude any potential material.

"The purpose is to avoid really distressing, upsetting images that our viewers might not want to see going straight out," a BBC spokeswoman said.

"It will only be used in very exceptional circumstances," she added.

The BBC's television and radio content now needs to comply with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code in six key areas: Protecting the Under Eighteens; Harm and Offence; Crime; Religion; Fairness and Privacy.

Revisions were made to the BBC's Producers' Guidelines following recommendations made in the Neil report into editorial issues raised by the Hutton Inquiry. But the last formal update was in 2000.

The BBC said the new guidelines being launched on Thursday aim to be clearer and easier to use. They will be published in both a print and searchable format on the internet.

Mr Whittle must now also personally approve of any proposal to employ someone known to have a criminal record or background of illegal activity.

Other key changes include:

  • A requirement that the use of secret recording in a BBC investigation must be kept under constant review.

  • New advice on BBC investigations into crime and serious anti-social behaviour, which must be clearly editorially justified.

  • A suggestion the BBC should normally consider asking contributors to sign contracts - including a declaration of personal information such as criminal convictions or that which may involve personal conflicts of interest.

    BBC outlines post-Hutton reforms
    23 Jun 04 |  Entertainment
    How Ofcom will affect the BBC
    06 Jan 04 |  Entertainment



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