Matthew Taylor on the BBC and Bowen
Matthew Taylor: "The BBC should be focussing more on its image as a Corporation"
14 May 09

Matthew Taylor of the RSA has addressed Jonathan Dimbleby’s criticisms of the BBC Trust on He sees the culture of compliance as a real problem for journalists:

Jonathan has written a powerful attack on the BBC Trust for its censuring of BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen. Now, I am all for media accountability, but having read through the detail of this case the Trust response does seem excessive. An essay by Bowen on the 1967 Sid Day War was criticised by two well-known pro-Israeli activists. The Trust then agreed to a number of small amendments to Bowen’s piece. Supporters of the journalist fear that the damage to his and the BBC’s reputation caused by this apparent censure from the Trust is massively disproportionate.

My many friends in the BBC tell me that the system of editorial compliance now feels out of control. Fear of any criticism of content is creating cumbersome form-filling processes, a burgeoning bureaucracy and posing a threat to freedom and creativity (there is even talk by some programme makers of establishing an anonymous website on which to publish what they see as the more ludicrous compliance decisions). I was reminded of these concerns this morning when I heard that the BBC is again investigating Jonathan Ross, this time as a consequence of four complaints (so far) that a joke he made last weekend was homophobic.

But, he adds, the BBC needs to do more to ensure the support of the public:

We form general impressions of organisations, as we do of people. Those we judge to be modest and generous we are inclined to forgive when they make errors. But when those we deem arrogant and self interested err we enjoy their discomfort (witness the MPs’ expenses saga). Could it be that instead of attempting to avoid all editorial criticism — a project that will either fail or be deeply counter productive –– the BBC should be focussing more on its image as a Corporation?

Read the full post here