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Government's role in upholding the impartiality of BBC news coverage

 The Countryside Alliance is gravely concerned about the BBC’s poor record of impartiality in its news and current affairs programming in relation to its coverage of rural issues.

 A 2014 BBC review of its rural programming found that the BBC’s coverage of rural affairs suffered from a ‘metropolitan bias’ and was thought to be ‘squeamish’ and ‘simplistic’. 

As recently as 2022, however, a Countryside Alliance survey found that almost 95% of respondents still did not believe the BBC is covering rural issues fairly and impartially. Over 75% of respondents did not believe that the TV Licence represents good value for money.

The BBC response to controversial behaviour by presenters on social media blatantly contradicts the statement made to BBC staff by Director General Tim Davie upon his appointment that the BBC needed to regain its reputation for impartiality and therefore, “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC”.

The government rightly does not exercise direct editorial control over the BBC. It is, however, responsible for agreeing the BBC’s Royal Charter and for permitting it to continue to levy a TV Licence fee to fund its operations. 

If the BBC cannot serve its rural audiences to their broad satisfaction in its coverage of rural issues, the government should look to use these levers to restore fairness for what risks becoming a marginalised audience.

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