Continued: Did Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman break the BBC's impartiality rule?


By JLCohen
June 27, 2010
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Earlier this month, I wrote a post on this very website in which I outlined my anger when Jeremy Paxman insisted on referring to the boarding of the Mavi Marmara by IDF commandos as an "attack" during the episode of Newsnight broadcast on the 2nd of June. Since this was so soon after the event - which took place on the 31st of May - when there was still very little information available on what actually happened, I felt that in doing so the presenter had allowed his personal prejudice to surface and that by allowing this the BBC had failed to remain non-biased and impartial. As a result, I wrote a letter of complaint to the Corporation which can be read in full via the link above.

It seems that those responsible for deciding which complaints will be upheld are broadly in agreement, for I have now received the following e-mail:

"Thank you for your e-mail.

I understand you’re unhappy because you believe Jeremy Paxman kept referring to Israeli troops boarding the Freedom Flotilla as an attack.

As you stated, during his interview with US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J Crowley, that Crowley questioned such use of terms and we broadcast this. Our journalists including Jeremy are well aware of our commitment to impartial reporting. They're expected to put their own political views to one side when carrying out their work for the BBC. They seek to provide the information which will enable viewers and listeners to make up their own minds; to show the political reality and provide the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard such as the variation in views on the Israeli troops boarding the vessels, which some may see as an attack where as others consider it to be a defensive initiative. Senior editorial staff, the Executive Committee and the BBC Trust keep a close watch on programmes to ensure that standards of impartiality are maintained.

However I appreciate your concerns and that you may continue to hold a different view so I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our Audience Log. This is daily report of audience feedback which is circulated to BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The Audience Logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions on future BBC programmes and content.

Once again, thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards

Philip Young."

While I would have liked to hear Mr. Paxman make an apology, this seems satisfactory to me as they have at least registered the complaint and agreed that standards were allowed to slip - as a result, they have taken action. Now, I'd like to hear from other users of thejc.com - would you too have been satisfied with this?

COMMENTS

Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 06/27/2010 - 18:10

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No. You have been fobbed off. You need to escalate the complaint to the level of the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust. See the page on the BBC website about 'Complaints' for how to do this.


JLCohen

Mon, 06/28/2010 - 18:56

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Toda, Jonathan. I'm inexperienced when it comes to these matters, having not been one of life's complainers, but I shall do exactly as you suggest. :-)


amber

Tue, 06/29/2010 - 17:59

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Yes, complaints only get noticed by the BBC when you escalate them. The initial default position is ALWAYS to rebut the complaint. I have had complaints upheld by the Editorial Complaints Unit and the Trust, which were initially rebuffed lower down the ladder.

Good for you for taking this forward!

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