Wednesday 21 October 2009

BBC Trust says it will not block the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time

Here is the BBC Trust's decision on the BNP and Question Time which was issued tonight. The Trust is not going to block the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin.
It said in a statement: "The BBC Trust has decided not to hear appeals on the BBC Executive’s decision to invite a BNP representative on to tomorrow’s Question Time because to do so would be inconsistent with the BBC’s constitutional arrangements that the governing body of the BBC does not intervene in programmes before they have been transmitted, and would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC.
The BBC’s Charter and Agreement makes it clear that complainants on appropriate matters have the right of appeal to the Trust, and that the Trust has the right to decide whether or not to hear any appeal. An ad hoc committee of three Trustees today considered two appeals, one from Peter Hain MP, the other from a member of the public, relating to the invitation to the BNP to appear on Question Time on 22 October 2009. The Trustees were Richard Tait (chairman), Mehmuda Mian and Jeremy Peat.
They took the view that the Charter and Agreement establishes the Director-General as editor-in-chief of the BBC - the individual responsible for the editorial content of BBC programmes. The Charter also makes clear that the BBC Trust should not exercise the functions of the Executive. This carries the clear implication that the Trust should not attempt to take upon itself the role of editor-in-chief. In practice this means not intervening in editorial decisions relating to individual programmes before they have been broadcast. After broadcast any BBC programme is, of course, subject to the BBC complaints process, in which the Trust plays a key role as the final court of appeal.
The committee decided that since the appeals covered issues already considered by the Director-General in his role as editor-in-chief and related to a programme not yet transmitted, these were not appeals that they should hear.
Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Trust Chairman (pictured) said: "The BBC Trust is aware of the debate and public controversy on this issue and understands that this is a matter of considerable importance to many licence fee payers. We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously in line with the BBC’s constitutional arrangements."
Richard Tait, BBC Trustee and chairman of the committee said:"We have decided it would be wrong for the Trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast – even one as plainly controversial as this. To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC – something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday’s Question Time is entirely a matter for the Director-General acting as the BBC’s editor-in-chief, and we have impressed upon him his duty to ensure the programme is fully compliant with the law and with the BBC’s published editorial guidelines. Once the programme has been broadcast, any member of the public who feels it breaches the guidelines can make use of the established BBC complaints process to make their case."

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