Have your say: a public consultation on the BBC Editorial Guidelines

The BBC has launched a public consultation on the topic of its Editorial Guidelines.

“The BBC has opened a consultation on a revised draft of the Editorial Guidelines which set the content standards for the BBC’s programme makers and other content producers for BBC services.

The Guidelines cover impartiality, accuracy, fairness, privacy and harm and offence, and further sections deal with a range of topics such as religious programming, war, terror, conflicts of interest, competitions, votes, relationships with other organisations and commercial references.

The Guidelines evolve over time to take account of changes in BBC regulation as set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter and Agreement; changes in legislation, developments in editorial thinking and lessons learnt from editorial rulings as well as reflecting changes in public attitudes and technology. The BBC therefore periodically reviews the Guidelines to ensure they keep pace with both our legal requirements and with changing audience expectations.

Under the current Charter, the BBC Board is responsible for the Editorial Guidelines. The Agreement states that the BBC must: “set, publish, review periodically, and observe guidelines designed to secure appropriate standards in the context of the UK Public Services”. This is the first revision of the Editorial Guidelines under this new governance system.”

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

Submissions must be made by November 12th 2018.






BBC News’ double standards on terror surface again

Just two days after it managed to produce coverage of a terror attack on a Jerusalem bus without making use of the word terror, the BBC News website did find a use for that word.

An article appearing on the website’s Middle East page on April 20th was headlined “Israel arrests six members of ‘Jewish terror cell” and the same terminology was employed in the report’s opening lines.Shin Bet arrests art

“Israel’s security agency says it has arrested six West Bank settlers who were members of a “Jewish terror cell”.”

Later on readers were told that:

“The suspects were connected to members of another ring of Jewish extremists who had recently been apprehended and accused of a series of attacks on Palestinian and Christian targets, according to the security agency.” [emphasis added]

This is of course not the first example of the BBC’s use of terms such as terror and extremists to describe Israelis – even though it consistently avoids such language when reporting on Palestinian terror and regularly employs euphemisms such as “resistance group” to describe the designated terrorist organisation Hamas.

Moreover, the BBC has previously supplied an ‘explanation’ for the double standards seen in its employment of the word terror.

“So what the BBC is actually saying here is that it makes use of the term “Jewish terrorists” – including not in direct quotes and in apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ – because Israeli officials use such wording.

However, the rub lies in the fact that Palestinian officials will never be found using comparable terminology to describe their own citizens who carry out attacks against Israelis and so the BBC will not apply similar practice when reporting those stories.”

In this latest case too Israeli officials have not hesitated to use accurate terminology to describe the suspects and their actions and hence we find the above headline promoted on a website which, in stark contrast, just 48 hours previously refrained from describing the bombing of a public bus in which twenty people were injured as an act of terror.

As we have previously observed with regard to that editorial policy:

“The obvious outcome of that is a double standard according to which the accuracy of the terminology used by the BBC is dependent upon the honesty of the government or authority concerned – and that is clearly a big problem for a media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.”

Related Articles:

More evidence of BBC News double standards on use of the word terror

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’