BBC business coverage ‘not balanced’
By Emiko Terazono in London
Published: May 25 2007 16:55 | Last updated: May 25 2007 21:41
The BBC’s business coverage is guilty of “repeated breaches of its impartiality standards”, according to a report it commissioned.
A review by a former top adviser to the UK government cleared the world’s largest publicly funded broadcaster of systematic bias against business. However, a lack of knowledge of the commercial world among journalists and a preoccupation with the consumer perspective was seen to lead to unconscious “partial and unbalanced coverage of business issues”.
The report published on Friday said that a lack of specialist knowledge and a shortage of interest on the part of some programme editors led to the BBC missing stories or angles.
The tendency to adopt the consumer’s viewpoint led to coverage being framed as a “battle between ‘unscrupulous’ company bosses and their ‘exploited’ customers”, it said.
The report said the BBC took business as a genre seriously in terms of both the amount of coverage and resources devoted to it, but raised examples where its standards were not met.
Examples cited included coverage of Barclays’ £7bn profits and the focus on bank charges, when most of the bank’s profits were not made from UK accounts held by individuals and small businesses.
The problems faced by BP, the oil group, and the departure of Lord Browne, its chief executive, went “largely unreported” due to the preoccupation with the consumer angle.
The report said that an interview with Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was at times sycophantic in tone, while Angela Knight of the British Bankers’ Association faced an aggressive interviewing approach.
In its submission to the review panel, led by Sir Alan Budd, the former chief economic adviser to the UK Treasury, the CBI, which represents UK companies, said: “Members feel that coverage of business issues ranks low down the BBC’s priorities and that the coverage there can often be trivialised or triggered by union or pressure group attacks rather than a broader view of business’s role in society.”
The report said that systematic efforts should be made to treat the audience as workers and investors as well as consumers and the range of interviewees on business issues should be broadened.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007