Contentious issues are off limits for BBC journos

 MUMBAI: The BBC has announced changes to its guidelines covering the circumstances in which BBC journalists, presenters and freelancers can write regular columns for newspapers and magazines.

The changes mean that no staff, or regular freelance journalists whose main profile or income comes from the BBC, will be able to write newspaper or magazine columns on current affairs or other contentious issues.



The new arrangements have been approved by the BBC governing board. However, current contracts in place mean that some columns will continue until the middle of next year. Articles on specific BBC programmes that are part of an overall press and publicity plan will be allowed, as will columns on non contentious issues and food, film or music reviews, or syndicated articles that appear first on BBC News online.

Freelance journalists whose main profile and income is not through the BBC will be exempt. Current staff and freelance contracts will not need amending. Senior news managers are already in discussion with the journalists affected, the majority of whom are staff employees.

BBC News director Richard Sambrook said: "Impartiality is an essential element to the BBC's reputation and to our journalism. When our journalists write in papers it is seen as an extension of their work for the BBC. Yet columns and newspaper articles on controversial issues depend on expressing opinions to an extent which is often incompatible with the BBC's impartiality. The audience's trust in the independence of the BBC's journalism on all subjects is something we cannot afford to compromise."

The BBC producer guidelines dealing with conflict of interest will now be redrafted in line with the agreed changes.

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