Whitehall fears BBC’s ‘modernising’ reforms could make ‘groupthink’ on issues WORSE

BBC’s vow to tackle bias as Whitehall fears grow that the company’s ‘modernising’ reforms could make ‘groupthink’ on issues like Brexit WORSE

  • Whitehall sources believe BBC’s promise to tackle bias could be undermined by centralization of news production
  • There are concerns that the broadcaster’s groupthink about issues cannot be addressed
  • Fear that the ‘modernized’ system ‘driven from the center’ could get in the way










The BBC’s promise to tackle bias could be undermined by its decision to increasingly centralize its news production, Whitehall sources believe.

There are concerns that the broadcaster’s groupthink on issues like Brexit will not be addressed if the ‘modernised’ system is ‘driven from the center’.

It comes despite BBC bosses promising an ‘impartiality revolution’ to counter prejudice. Last October, Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said the company would have to reveal how it is “going to change” before getting a new license fee.

Later that month, it released details of an “action plan” to ensure content is “honest, accurate and unbiased.”

The BBC’s promise to tackle bias could be undermined by its decision to increasingly centralize its news production, Whitehall sources believe

Director-General Tim Davie also claimed the company’s commitment to impartiality was his number one priority when he took on the role in 2020. But some are concerned that the BBC’s plans for ‘modernizing news’ will undermine those promises.

Her proposals include the creation of multi-skilled story teams that will produce stories for the BBC’s various programmes. It means that as more news departments and shows are moved out of London, the journalists will be placed in these central teams rather than being linked to specific programmes.

But a recent review led by BBC board member Sir Nicholas Serota pointed out that the move “would entail a greater level of centralized news production”, as individual editors would have limited power to change certain parts of their stories. And there are concerns that this will make it even more difficult to address issues of impartiality in broadcasting.

A Whitehall insider said the review “describes the way nothing the BBC says they will do in terms of reducing bias or increasing impartiality will work”, adding: “Regardless of who they turn to move, the ‘story teams’ will make sure the news output is driven from the center in exactly the same way.”

A recent review led by BBC board member Sir Nicholas Serota (pictured) pointed out that the BBC's plans to

A recent review led by BBC board member Sir Nicholas Serota (pictured) pointed out that the BBC’s plans to create ‘multi-skilled story teams’ would involve ‘a higher level of centralized news production’, as individual editors would have limited power. have to share certain parts of their stories

Sir Nicholas’ report also warned that the move could increase “potential errors” as stories “will be reused by multiple programs.” And it claimed there’s a risk of “plurality being reduced” because fewer stories are covered.

It comes as the BBC revealed yesterday that it had appointed an interim news and current affairs director amid reports that ITN could be playing ‘hardball’ over the early release of its new appointee, Deborah Turnness, on giving 12 months.

Jonathan Munro – the deputy director of news who was involved in the re-hiring of Martin Bashir despite his interview with Diana in 2016 – will oversee the division until Miss Turnness arrives. Current director Fran Unsworth is leaving at the end of this month.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Impartisanship is a top priority for the BBC. Our newsroom restructuring is designed to reduce duplication and provide better service to the public, in addition to moving more jobs out of London and financial savings.

“The Serota review identifies the need for careful monitoring of the changes we are making and we have incorporated the findings into our plan.”

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