Question Time: Mark Reckless clashes with host over BBC bias
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The BBC boss hailed the broadcaster for the quality of its news content as he gave evidence to a House of Lords committee. He said he had implemented a “clear policy” for journalists to remain impartial on social media in 2020 that had yielded results over the past 12 months.
Mr Davie told the Communications and Digital Committee: “It’s very straightforward, though.
“We believe the number of issues we’ve had from journalists over this year are very limited.
“If we see those issues, we take action. We have taken action.
“We don’t talk about individual cases but we will take action where someone has breached our social media policy in journalism.
“Those issues among journalists are mercifully very, very low now.”
Mr Davie, who has worked for the BBC for more than 15 years, took over as director-general in September 2020.
In his first speech to staff in the role he vowed he would restore trust in the corporation after seeing its popularity dented in recent years.
“We urgently need to champion and recommit to impartiality,” he said at the time.
“This is not about abandoning democratic values such as championing fair debate or an abhorrence of racism.
“But it is about being free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda.
“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.”
New tough social-media guidelines were introduced for journalists after Mr Davie took on his role as he sought to restore its reputation.
But despite his claim today that the new policy had seen a massive drop off in cases of bias, the organisation has continued to face a deluge of accusations of failing to remain impartial on social media.
Last year the Campaign For Common Sense published figures claiming the BBC Newsnight journalist Lewis Goodall was far tougher on the Tories than the Opposition.
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They said analysis of 236 tweets sent by Mr Goodall in the first week of October showed 41 were critical of the Conservatives and a further 21 highlighted internal Tory rows, while just three tweets were critical of Labour.
Host of the late-night news programme, Emily Maitlis, also found herself hot water after re-tweeting a post by Piers Morgan criticising the Government.
She swiftly deleted the message but was criticised by campaign group Defund the BBC for being “incapable of maintaining impartiality”.
In another example, in March BBC News at Ten host Huw Edwards was forced to delete a tweet sent following a high-profile row in which BBC Breakfast mocked the then Housing Secretary for having a Union Flag in his office.
Mr Edwards posted a picture of himself standing in front of the Welsh flag, along with the caption: “Flags are now mandatory — very pleased with my new backdrop for BBC News at Ten.”
Mr Davie told peers he would not publish the names of which journalists had been disciplined for breaking social media guidelines but he would look into whether he could publish the number of incidents there had been.
Speaking on accusations of bias more widely, the director-general said he believed licence fee payers would be “impressed” at the level of impartiality shown by the broadcaster if they sat in an internal meeting.
He said: “I come from a strange point of view that if everyone sat in the editorial meeting at the BBC or got closer to the BBC they would be impressed by the quality of debate, the thinking that goes into some of the storytelling, and the real values that we’re trying to deploy into our thinking around impartiality.”
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