The BBC has published a whistleblowing policy to provide staff and freelancers with a “confidential mechanism” to raise concerns about activity at the broadcaster.
The move comes as part of an update of its impartiality plan, which was announced last October as part of a drive to ensure its content is fair, accurate and unbiased.
The 10-point action plan was published in response to the Serota Review into the BBC’s governance and culture, which made a number of recommendations on improving editorial standards.
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) July 1, 2022
In the new progress report, the BBC says the whistleblowing policy aims to “encourage anyone with honestly-held concerns to report them”, including about editorial issues.
It notes that “usually” concerns can be resolved informally or formally through routes such as using the company’s management chain and other policies already in place including those for grievances and anti-bullying and harassment.
However, it also says that if individuals are “not comfortable” using these routes or if the concern raised remained unresolved, then the new policy “provides a range of alternative ways to report the issue”.
The broadcaster has also updated how it handles fast-tracked complaints and created a new process for BBC-initiated editorial investigations.
Another update in the plan is that programmes have been selected for the first internal content reviews, which will assess editorial standards and culture including impartiality, freedom of expression, diversity of voices, accuracy, fairness and trust.
The programmes chosen are BBC Breakfast, Countryfile and the morning radio news programmes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The BBC said these selections have not been made because of particular impartiality concerns.
Audiences expect impartiality and strong editorial standards from the BBC, and it is our absolute priority to do all we can to maintain their trust, and tackle perceptions of bias
Peter Johnston, BBC’s director for Northern Ireland
The BBC also said that more than 24,000 people have completed “bespoke impartiality training” since January 2021, with all new joiners required to complete it.
Peter Johnston, BBC’s director for Northern Ireland, has been leading the implementation of the plan.
He said: “Audiences expect impartiality and strong editorial standards from the BBC, and it is our absolute priority to do all we can to maintain their trust, and tackle perceptions of bias.
“We are making good progress with the action plan and the hard work continues.”
BBC director-general Tim Davie added: “The BBC is consistently rated as the most trusted news source by audiences – but we take nothing for granted.
“That’s why ensuring extraordinarily high standards of impartiality across our content is vital.
“This work is being done at pace. We will get this right. We need a BBC that everyone can have high levels of confidence in.”
The Serota review, led by Arts Council England chairman Sir Nicholas Serota, was commissioned by the BBC board following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report in May 2021.
It said the risk of editorial standards being circumvented by staff “has been reduced significantly in the last 25 years”.
However it found some investigations into potential rule breaches “were too slow to gather the facts, leaving staff to manage hostile media and audience reaction”.