BBC chief defends net's impartiality

Called into Downing Street to discuss coverage of cutbacks

LONDON -- BBC director general Mark Thompson has defended the pubcaster's impartiality after being called into Downing Street to discuss forthcoming BBC coverage of government spending cuts.

In an unusual move, the director general was summoned to Number Ten Downing Street -- the British equivalent of the White House -- to discuss the pubcaster's editorial coverage of cutbacks in public spending.

The meeting has prompted criticism of the BBC from the opposition Labour party, which said that Thompson should not discuss specific editorial coverage with the government.

Details of the private meeting were picked up when photographs of Thompson holding his briefing papers outside the entrance of Number Ten were published up by the Daily Mail newspaper.

A spokesman for the BBC said the meeting did not affect the BBC's editorial integrity.

"The director general has made it repeatedly clear that the impartiality of the BBC is paramount," a BBC statement said.

"The director general in his role as editor-in-chief discussed the possible participation of a number of members of the government in the BBC's coverage of the spending review this autumn. The BBC has regular meetings with both government and opposition parties. Both he and colleagues will also be talking to all the main political parties on this issue."
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