New BBC Char­ter could ‘ac­cel­er­ate’ cur­rent is­sues

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The Coun­try­side Al­liance (CA) has raised sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns fol­low­ing the com­mence­ment of the new BBC Char­ter; the Royal Char­ter is the con­sti­tu­tional ba­sis for the BBC and sets out its pub­lic pur­poses, guar­an­tees its in­de­pen­dence, and out­lines the du­ties of the Trust and the Ex­ec­u­tive Board.

Hav­ing com­menced on 1 Jan­uary, the new Char­ter es­tab­lishes im­por­tant changes to the way com­plaints and ap­peals are han­dled; the BBC Trust, pre­vi­ously re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing ed­i­to­rial stan­dards and im­par­tial­ity of BBC con­tent, closed in April of this year with some of its pow­ers be­ing trans­ferred to Of­com.

Of­com will have a new role in hold­ing the BBC to ac­count, how­ever this role will be con­fined to broad­cast news and cur­rent pub­lic policy, with the vast ma­jor­ity of con­tent fall­ing out­side its scope.

Writ­ing on the Con­ser­va­tive Home web­site, me­dia re­la­tions man­ager at the CA, Tom Hunt ar­gued that the new char­ter amounted to a “sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the ex­ter­nal reg­u­la­tion of BBC ac­cu­racy and im­par­tial­ity”. He went on to say: “This should be of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern to any­body who cares about the BBC, its fu­ture, and its re­la­tion­ship with the great Bri­tish pub­lic. In 2014, a BBC Trust Re­view found that there was a ‘gulf in un­der­stand­ing be­tween the BBC and a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of the ru­ral com­mu­nity’. The same re­port went on to ad­mit that the BBC has a ‘metropoli­tan bias’.

“Un­for­tu­nately, since this wel­come self-di­ag­no­sis, very lit­tle has been done to ad­dress the con­cerns we raised. For ex­am­ple, con­sider the record of [BBC pre­sen­ter] Chris Pack­ham. “We fear that the ‘metropoli­tan bias’, iden­ti­fied by the BBC Trust in 2014 will not only con­tinue to linger, but may ac­tu­ally ac­cel­er­ate.”

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