BBC NUJ MEMBERS DEMAND RIGHT TO IMPARTIALITY
The BBC must resign fully from the CBI say its NUJ members in Glasgow. This was the resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority at a meeting this afternoon. Around fifty people attended, with one vote against.
Paul Holleran, Scottish NUJ Organiser, said:
“There was a real concern and anxiety about the damage that CBI membership is causing. Journalists are already under enough pressure without being caught up in a shambles that is not of their making.”
We share the concerns of professional journalists at the BBC, whose reputation for neutrality is of the upmost importance. It is not appropriate that the actions of the BBC management should be allowed to create the suggestion that the organisation and its journalists support a particular political position by association.
Business for Scotland Chairman, Tony Banks, wrote last week to the Director General of the BBC, Lord Birkenhead, asking questions about the Corporation’s mishandling of the issues around its CBI membership. Since STV clearly viewed its membership as a threat to its impartiality, it follows that the BBC should take the same approach. Resignations from the CBI during the last two weeks have been made on the basis of that absence of neutrality.
Having registered as a No campaign organisation, and already producing anti-independence campaign propaganda, there can be no doubt about the CBI’s position, in spite of its Director General’s claim yesterday that “[the CBI] is not a political organisation.”
The BBC was asked whether its license payers were consulted about CBI membership costs being taken from their payments, why the Corporation did not reveal its own membership until questioned, and whether membership, suspended or otherwise, is in breach of its Royal Charter.
So far, we have not had any response from Lord Birkenhead and we look forward to hearing his views. In the meantime, it is clear that his own journalists in Scotland are unhappy. He has a responsibility both to them and to the public duty of impartiality to remove this barrier.
Our letter to the Director General of the BBC
Lord Hall of Birkenhead CBE
British Broadcasting Corporation
Dear Lord Hall
I hereby enclose a copy of a letter and associated dossier sent on Thursday 24th April to CBI Director General John Cridland CBE. These documents are already in the public domain. Likewise, I am making this letter public in the interests of transparency.
Given the contents of these documents and the recent decision by the BBC to “suspend” its membership, we have eight questions for you in relation to the ongoing scandal at CBI UK.
Subject to the pace and substance of your response we will consider a complaint to the BBC Trust on the subject of the BBC’s relationship with CBI UK. In the meantime, we look forward to a reply to the following questions:
1. Was the BBC consulted on the CBI’s decision to take a policy decision against Scottish independence and/or back the No Campaign?
2. When the BBC began reporting the resignations of other members why did it not highlight in the public interest its own CBI membership?
3. Throughout its time over the past two years reporting on CBI interventions in the debate on Scotland’s future why did the BBC not make clear to audiences it own interest in the matter as a CBI member?
4. Is the BBC content for its membership dues and by extension the funds of licence fee holders to have been spent by the CBI on campaigning for a No vote at the Scottish referendum?
5. Does “suspension” constitute the BBC resigning its CBI membership with a view to re-joining and if the suspension only begins after the 30th of May is the BBC content to be a member of a No campaigning body until that point?
6. Have BBC lawyers reviewed the situation in full to verify the BBC has not breached its own charter or any other body of law?
7. Given the CBI was acting as a campaigning body for a No vote with regular interventions in the democratic debate on Scotland’s constitutional future, should the BBC not have questioned CBI assertions of neutrality?
8. Should it not have in each case of coverage offered a right of reply by an appropriate body on the other side of the argument?
I am copying BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten of Barnes for his information only at this stage.
I thank you in advance for your interest in this matter.
Chairman Business for Scotland
Business for Scotland concurs with the NUJ members at BBC Scotland, The BBC must resign immediately. We also believe that any broadcaster, public or private sector company if it wants to be seen to be wholly neutral must resign as members of the CBI with immediate effect.