Saturday, 3 May 2014

My Submission to the BBC Impartiality Review 2013 (Stuart Prebble Report)



Clearing my Desktop, I found the Submission below. Stuart Prebble's Impartiality Review has now been completed and published. I can't update the Submission in any way since I no longer read the BBC News website - it has been deleted from my Favourites Bar.

BBC TRUST IMPARTIALITY REVIEW 2013

SUBMISSION from Trevor Pateman   4 March 2013

1.     This submission relates only to the BBC News website (www.bbc.co.uk/news/) and only to its coverage of Religion.

2.     Over a long period of time – three or four years at a minimum - the website has created the impression that in relation to Religion, only the affairs of the Roman Catholic church are worthy of coverage and that there are only two newsworthy figures in that Church, the Pope and Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

3.     Website coverage comprises reporting of scandals affecting the Church but also uncritical reproduction of the Church’s own press releases. For example, on numerous Sunday mornings in the past few years, a main lead story has been the content of Cardinal O’Brien’s sermon for that day. There are also what might called be “Human Interest” stories about the Pope – his clothes and so on – which lend a Hello! magazine feel to some of the news coverage.

4.     There is some coverage of the Church of England, both of its scandals and occasionally of sermons by one of the Archbishops, but quantitatively far, far less.

5.     There is no coverage at all of the non-conformist churches.

6.     There is very little coverage or no coverage of other religions – Judaism, Islam and so on – as religions, with leaders, doctrinal conflicts and so on.

7.     The result is that website readers are effectively directed towards thinking that only the Roman Catholic Church is an important religious organisation and that only Roman Catholic beliefs and conflicts around them are worth thinking about.

8.     The BBC News website does have a global readership and it might be argued that this accounts for the attention to Roman Catholic rather than, say, Church of  England affairs. But if the website is intended to be global, then there should be an awful lot more about religious Islam than there is.

9.     Insofar as the website is a National site, then the coverage is completely unbalanced. Cardinal Keith O’Brien is sometimes presented in a Scottish context, but Protestant Scottish religious leaders are rarely if ever mentioned. This is not a question of space. It would be quite possible to give a “Sunday Morning Round Up” of sermons being given if sermons  to empty pews are felt to be important. The partiality arises in the editorial decision that only Cardinal O’Brien’s are (or were) worth reporting and that they are worthy of lead story coverage.


10.                         The claims here are very general but will be supported by an analysis of the BBC News website Log (which I assume is kept in some form or other). But by way of example, I will point you to my Blog post of 16 April 2011 where I felt confident enough to predict that Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s Easter sermon, whatever it contained, would  be the main religious story on  Easter Sunday – as indeed it was (see my Blog post for 24 April 2011 at www.trevorpatemanblog.com)  

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