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BBC and BBC Trust Watch


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13th October   

BBC Just a Politically Correct Joke...

Fear of religion built into new BBC editorial guidelines
Link Here

The BBC has changed its editorial guidelines to ensure that subjects such as religion and science are treated with due impartiality.

The change has come about as a result of a review of the BBC's editorial guidelines by governing body, the BBC Trust.

The 2005 guidelines stated that controversial subjects which must be treated with due impartiality were solely matters of public policy or political/industrial controversy. The new guidelines extend the definition of controversial subjects to include religion, science, culture and ethics.

The trust said: In practice, this means that when BBC content deals with controversy within these subjects, it must be treated with a level of impartiality adequate and appropriate to the content, taking account of the nature of the content and the likely audience expectation.

The BBC has further beefed up its guidelines on religion by stating that any content dealing with matters of religion and likely to cause offence to those with religious views must be editorially justified and must be referred to a senior editorial figure .

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said the new religion rules go to far: Although we are not suggesting that contributors should go out of their way to be needlessly offensive, this is an entirely retrograde step that will put severe restrictions on comedians, documentary makers, satirists and commentators who want to be critical of religion. Almost anything that isn't wholly reverential towards religious beliefs can be perceived as offensive by some believers. The idea that any comment that could be offensive to a religious person must be editorially approved shows that the BBC has become ridiculously timid and fearful of religious controversy.

Other changes include a new guideline on protecting international contributors to the BBC from repercussions in their own countries.

BBC stars will not be allowed to make unduly humiliating or derogatory remarks to entertain audiences under new guidelines published yesterday.

The changes are aimed at protecting people from intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks for the purposes of entertainment . The guidelines state: This does not mean preventing comedy or jokes about people in the public eye, but simply that such comments and their tone are proportionate to their target.

Following upheld complaints about BBC coverage of the launch of a U2 album in 2009, and a Radio One Harry Potter Day the same year, the new guidelines now require BBC staff to take account the cumulative effect that repeated mentions of a particular brand or product over a short period may have in providing undue prominence.

The new rules take effect from midnight on Monday, 18 October.


4th August   

Stark Options...

BBC TV censor responds to complaint about website headline
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The BBC Trust has rejected a complaint about a headline on the World Service website that asked, Should homosexuals face execution?

The question was linked to a Have Your Say debate page based on a radio programme broadcast on December 16 after the Ugandan government said it was considering legislation which would impose the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

The BBC Trust said a complaint was received in January by a woman who said she considered it outrageous that the question was posed.

She also criticised subsequent apologies from BBC executives David Stead and Peter Horrocks as flimsy and half-hearted and said the decision to generate a debate on the topic would invite comments that could easily be criminal incitement to hatred .

A BBC Trust report said the committee agreed with the director of World Service, Peter Horrocks, who wrote in his blog that the headline was too stark .

The report concluded: The committee would request that the BBC Executive review its online editorial guideline on audience expectations to ensure that content writers are reminded that all content is available globally, and that any contentious issues should be suitably contextualised in order to prevent the general reader from misunderstanding its purpose.


1st August   

Political Padding...

Jacqui Smith applies for job as TV censor
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The former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has sparked 'fury' by bidding for a top BBC job.

The ex-cabinet minister, who famously charged taxpayers for the cost of watching two pornographic films, is lobbying to become vice-chairman of the BBC regulator,  the BBC Trust.

The plum position pays £77,000 a year for a two-and-a-half-day week and also offers generous perks.

Smith is hoping to replace the current vice-chairman, Chitra Bharucha, who is stepping down at the end of October. Jacqui Smith

The deadline for applications for the vice-chairman post expired last week. An announcement about the successful candidate is expected to be made by the end of the summer.


10th June

 Offsite: Jonathan Dimbleby...

Link Here
BBC's culture of compliance is extremely damaging

See article from


17th May   

Updated: Boyling Over...

Frankie Boyle writes to BBC Trust over their cowardice against well drilled lobbying
Link Here
Full story: Frankie Boyle...Whinges about Frankie Boyle and Mock the Week

Comedian Frankie Boyle has written an open letter slamming the BBC governing body's cowardly rebuke of his jokes about Palestine.

The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee apologised earlier this week over comments made by Boyle two years ago, comparing Palestine to a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew .

In his letter, the former Mock The Week star said he had been moved to tears after watching a documentary about life in Palestine and had promised himself he would do something.

He said that the BBC wished to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content , and also slammed the BBC's decision not to air a charity appeal for aid to Gaza last year. He said: It's tragic for such a great institution, but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well-drilled lobbying.

Boyle made the remarks on Radio 4 show Political Animal. He said: I've been studying Israeli Army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back.

Update: Open Letter to the BBC Trust

17th May 2010. See  article from

Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust's cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.

As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.

In case you missed it, the jokes in question are: I've been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well…that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.

I think the problem here is that the show's producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trust's ruling is essentially a note from their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.

The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. It's tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.

I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content. The most recent offering I saw was BBC Two's The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.

The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didn't just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn't bear that people were being treated like that.

A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. There's a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they don't have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.

The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. She will do nothing, he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, Neither will you .

I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.

Frankie Boyle


29th April   

Update: Crummy Censors...

BBC apologise over Frankie Boyle's quip at Israel beating up Palestine
Link Here
Full story: Frankie Boyle...Whinges about Frankie Boyle and Mock the Week

The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee has issued an apology over a joke made by Frankie Boyle which compared Palestine with a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew .

The committee, which acts as a final arbiter of appeals if complainants are unhappy with the response from BBC management, upheld a previous finding that the comment was inappropriate and offensive.

But it said that no further action is needed in the case.

Boyle made the remark on Radio 4 comedy sketch show Political Animal , broadcast almost two years ago in June 2008.

The Scottish comedian said: I'm quite interested in the Middle East, I'm actually studying that Israeli army martial arts. And I know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. It's a difficult question to understand. I've got an analogy which explains the whole thing quite well: If you imagine that Palestine is a cake - well, that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.

A complainant wrote to the BBC Executive branding the comment disgusting and anti-Semitic.

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, the complainant went to the editorial complaints unit, which is the next stage of the BBC's complaints process. But the complainant then went to the editorial standards committee as he felt that the remark had gone through the editorial process without ringing any alarm bells.


21st March   

A New TV Censor...

New appointment to the BBC Trust
Link Here

Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, has announced that Richard Ayre has been appointed as a member of the BBC Trust for four years commencing on 1 August 2010.

The BBC Trust is responsible for representing the interests of licence fee payers. The Trust also ensures that the BBC's activities are not anti-competitive.

Richard Ayre is currently the Ofcom Content Board member for England and Chairman of Ofcom's Broadcasting Review Committee. He will step down from this role in advance of becoming a BBC Trustee. He conducted Ofcom's 2007 enquiry into the misuse of premium rate telephone calls in TV programming. Ayre was formerly the BBC's Controller of Editorial Policy and Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News. After leaving the BBC he worked for seven years on the board of the Food Standards Agency and has been the Law Society's Freedom of Information Adjudicator since 2001. He is a former Chairman of Article 19, the International Campaign for Freedom of Expression, and also of the African Caribbean Reporters' Trust. He lives in east London with his partner, the artist Guy Burch.

Richard Ayre said: I'm keen to play a part in ensuring a BBC that delivers what licence fee payers have a right to expect of the world's leading public service broadcaster. But I'm also determined to help protect the BBC's editorial independence as we enter a time of severest pressures on the public sector.

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