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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
BBC unveils EU coverage changes
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The EU must not be seen through a "Westminster prism", says the BBC
BBC coverage of the European Union must be made more sophisticated, the corporation's news division has said.

The BBC was responding to an independent inquiry which said its reporting of the EU must become "more demonstrably impartial".

News managers say their coverage must move debate beyond the prism of Westminster politics.

A new Europe editor will be appointed in Brussels and staff given training about how EU institutions work.


The inquiry was commissioned by the BBC governors and headed by former Cabinet secretary Lord Wilson.

It found no evidence of deliberate bias in BBC reporting but it said there was a "widespread perception" of "certain forms of cultural and unintentional bias" which had to be corrected.

The inquiry said it had found an "institutional mindset" at the BBC when it came to the EU and a tendency to "polarise and over-simplify issues".

We are fully committed to providing in-depth, fair and impartial coverage of Europe
Helen Boaden
BBC News director

It also claimed there was a "measure of ignorance of the EU on the part of some journalists" and "a failure to report issues which ought to be reported, perhaps out of a belief that they are not sufficiently entertaining".

In its response, BBC News says it realises it needs to work further on getting a range of reporting to capture a wide variety of opinions about EU issues.

It also says its monitoring system needs to be improved to give more information about the balance of coverage, the range of interviewees used and the complaints received.

New jobs

BBC news director Helen Boaden said: "We are fully committed to providing in-depth, fair and impartial coverage of Europe and the EU, and to engaging our audiences on this highly complex subject.

"The commitment has already been reflected across much of our output. Lord Wilson's report contains constructive suggestions which we will build into our overall strategy."

As well as the new Europe editor covering politics and economics from Brussels, there will be a new Europe institutions reporter reporting from the corridors of the European commission and parliament.

The BBC will also use its network of bureaux in Europe to show opinions across EU member states, says the corporation's inquiry response.

And it says it will move to bring the background material on the BBC News website to the attention of audiences whenever possible.


News managers say they want to add to their list of contacts on EU issues.

They say confrontational exchanges can cast light on the subject but are not the only way of testing arguments.

They also reject the inquiry's idea that campaign groups with an interest in Europe should be allowed to choose contributors to broadcast debates.

"We believe it must always be the case that the BBC has the right to choose who appears in its programmes," says the response.

The corporation is also promising to prepare fully for a referendum on the new European constitution, which could take place next year.

If there is to be a vote, there will be a special "Constitution Day" on BBC News 24 and the news website to reflect debate on the document.

The response also says there will be a new system to measure the impact BBC journalism has on its audience in terms of promoting "informed citizenship" and understanding in EU issues.

In denial?

The inquiry suggested EU coverage could switch from the world newsgathering department to home newsgathering.

But the BBC managers believe that idea would not help ease concerns that the EU is viewed through a "domestic or Westminster prism".

Anti-EU constitution group the Vote No campaign said: "The independent review was very critical, but too many BBC executives still refuse to accept that they have got anything wrong."

It complained the BBC was refusing to release a copy of its log of its EU-related reports and said the corporation would attract less criticism if it was more transparent.


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