BBC has broken impartiality rules due to ‘unbalanced’ Brexit reporting

Sturgeon says independence 'essential' to avoid Brexit 'disaster'

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The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) has upheld a complaint from one viewer who complained that the programme only focused on businesses damaged by Brexit. The programme originally aired on December 20 and included a report on the effects of how new trading arrangements had impacted Scotland’s businesses and exporters since Britain left the European Union.

The introduction to the programme said: “It’s almost a year since the UK Government and European Union concluded a very long negotiation on the deal with which Britain then left the European single market.

“Brexit’s advocates say there will be long-term economic benefits, but it’s been a tough year for some of the Scottish businesses most affected.”

One viewer complained that the programme only looked into businesses that have been “apparently damaged” by Brexit and that the coverage was “unbalanced”.

The ruling stated: “The ECU noted the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality say, ‘We may produce content about any subject, at any point on the spectrum of debate, as long as there are good editorial reasons for doing so’, and considered it legitimate for the report to confine itself on this occasion to ‘the Scottish businesses most affected’ by Brexit.”

The ruling continued to say: “However, a programme adopting such an approach should maintain impartiality by exploring other aspects of the topic within a reasonable timeframe, which had not happened in the case of Reporting Scotland.”

Regarding the journalist who researched and reported the story, the ECU said: “The reporter had conducted research which ‘had led him to conclude that improved performance in some areas was attributable to factors other than Brexit.

“It is generally agreed, however, that Brexit has had a differential effect, bearing hardest on the kind of small businesses featured in the report, so there was at least a need to reflect areas where its impact had been less negative, whether on this occasion or in an appropriately linked programme.”

The ruling also stated how the media organisations responded to the complaint and noted: “The finding was reported to the management of BBC Scotland and discussed with the programme-makers concerned.”

The ruling comes as the BBC announced plans to improve its complaint procedure.

This summer, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom published a review recommending the organisation be more transparent on how it handles public feedback.

The BBC has done research to show that 84 percent of all complaints to the organisation felt the process of contacting the BBC was “easy” or “very easy”.

The research was based on 1,735 complaints handled by the BBC this year.

The BBC said: “While overall satisfaction with the complaints process is very good, we want to improve the audience experience further.”

In the next six months, the BBC will make its complaints website easier for the public to find and use.

The organisation will also explain how it uses viewer feedback across all BBC services and will also seek to improve the procedures following the complaints process.

They will also make sure complaints are dealt with “equally and fairly” and will improve how their editional teams respond to complaints.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie says: “Trust is a core value of the BBC. If audiences want to raise a complaint they must be dealt with swiftly, fairly and consistently and the process must be easy to understand.

“We thank Ofcom for their research which has helped inform these changes.”

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