The Countryside Alliance have raised significant concerns following the commencement of the new BBC Charter last week.
Writing on the Conservative Home website, Media Relations Manager at the Alliance, Tom Hunt, argued that the new charter amounted to a “significant reduction in the external regulation of BBC accuracy and impartiality”.
The BBC Trust which was responsible for enforcing editorial standards and ensuring the impartiality of BBC content has been abolished and some of its powers transferred to Ofcom. Ofcom will have a new role in holding the BBC to account, however, this role will be confined to broadcast news and current public policy, the vast majority of content will fall outside Ofcom’s scope.
In his comment piece, Tom Hunt said:
“This should be of significant concern to anybody who cares about the BBC, its future, and its relationship with the great British public. In 2014, a BBC Trust Review found that there was a, “gulf in understanding between the BBC and a significant section of the rural community”, the same report went on to admit that the BBC has a “metropolitan bias”.
“Unfortunately, since this welcome self-diagnosis, very little has been done to address the concerns we raised. For example, consider the record of Chris Packham, a BBC presenter, about whom Tim Bonner, our Chief Executive, wrote on this site last year.
“Packham routinely uses the platform provided to him by the BBC to abuse all those involved in traditional rural pursuits. In 2015, he took to the BBC Wildlife Magazine to refer to all those involved in hunting and shooting as the, “nasty brigade”. Previously, he had referred to the farmers involved in the Government-backed badger cull as, “brutalists, liars and frauds”. When we complained to the BBC Trust it was judged that Packham had not breached editorial guidelines regarding impartiality because he was only a “freelance” presenter. It is interesting to see that it was the same BBC Trust that sanctioned “freelance” presenter Jenni Murray for her comments on transgender issues.
“When we raised concerns about an appearance George Monbiot made on the BBC to engage in a lopsided debate on the new metropolitan fad, “rewilding”, we were told by that discussing it did not amount to discussing public policy. Unfortunately, there is little in the new Charter that points to the concerns we have with regard to the portrayal of rural issues being addressed. We fear that the “metropolitan bias”, identified by the BBC Trust in 2014 will not only continue to linger, but may actually accelerate. However, the concerns that we have repeatedly raised regarding BBC Governance, impartiality, and Ofcom’s new role should be concern to everybody.”