BBC appoints rural impartiality leader

THE BBC Trust has appointed Heather Hancock to examine the impartiality of the broadcaster's rural coverage.

The review, announced by the trust in March, will cover news, current affairs and factual programmes on BBC network, national, regional and local services.

It is the latest in a rolling programme of impartiality reviews looking at different aspects of the BBC's output, in line with the trust's responsibility to ensure the broadcaster's impartiality.

Ms Hancock, who is former chair of the BBC's rural affairs committee, will examine how accurate the BBC's output is at reflecting the lives of rural communities.

Other areas the review will examine include:

* Whether the BBC has given due weight to the diverse aspects of an argument, without giving undue weight to institutional perspectives;

* Whether coverage reflects a breadth and diversity of opinion across output and across time, and whether it reflects any variations of opinion between metropolitan and rural communities;

* When scientific theories are involved, whether they are well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear and precise language.

The review will include an independent report by Mrs Hancock, as well as audience research and content analysis.

BBC trustee Alison Hastings said: "Heather Hancock brings a wealth of experience inside and outside the BBC and I am very pleased she will be leading this review.

"This is our first in-depth look at the BBC's rural coverage.

"We'll be examining whether audiences are getting impartial and accurate news about issues reflecting rural areas, which reflects a wide range of opinions.

"We'll also be looking for evidence that the BBC avoids over-reliance on the views of a handful of individual organisations or institutions.

"The BBC is still the news source most trusted by the public; our review is an important part of our work in ensuring that the BBC maintains that reputation."

Ms Hancock said issues such as the forthcoming badger cull pilots, and wind farms in rural areas, attract a diversity of opinion across rural and urban areas.

She added: "It will be fascinating to examine the BBC's approach to providing duly impartial coverage of issues such as this which affect many people's lives."

The review is expected to conclude in summer 2014.

Prior to the Trust's inception, the BBC Governors reviewed the BBC's rural coverage in 2003. A summary of their findings can be found here.


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