BBC Impartiality Review Will Examine Religion, Immigration and Europe Reporting

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Ex-ITV chief Stuart Prebble is tasked with overseeing an independent review into whether or not the U.K. broadcaster is balanced in its coverage of such hot topics.

LONDON – The BBC's news coverage in three key areas – religion, immigration and Europe – is to be the subject of the independent review (HR 8/2/2012), led by Stuart Prebble, the former ITV chief executive and World in Action TV show editor.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said the review of the BBC's activities in those key areas come on the back of "real and interesting" concerns from some quarters about the impartiality of the BBC's news coverage.

The corporation is often accused of liberal and left wing leanings by politicians and other media outlets.

Prebble will look at the British broadcaster's coverage of hot topics raised with covering immigration, religion and the European Union.

The report is expected to be published in early 2013.

It marks the fifth impartiality review by the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, and follows an internal 2007 report that described a "largely unconscious self-censorship" that led to certain opinions being routinely under-represented.

Patten said the review would focus on immigration, religion and Europe because those are the topics that provoke most concern from the BBC's critics.

He told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on Wednesday: "The subjects we thought we would cover, because they are subjects we have had criticism from time to time about breadth of voice issues, are Europe, immigration and religion.

"It's an acceptance that these are areas where people are particularly concerned that we should get it right. We've been criticized in those areas and we think it's very important to listen to that criticism, not necessarily because it's right but because it reflects real and interesting concerns."

The former ITV chief's review will be a follow-up to John Bridcut's 2007 report, "From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel," which set out a dozen "guiding principles" to help ensure against biased reporting.

The Bridcut report said technological and social change meant the spread of opinion went beyond traditional concepts of left and right, but warned that impartiality did not mean insipid program making.

Prebble will investigate how Bridcut's recommendations have been implemented, and how the BBC's understanding of "breadth of voice" has developed.