Section 4: Impartiality - Introduction

Section 4.1

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The BBC is committed to achieving due impartiality in all its output. This commitment is fundamental to our reputation, our values and the trust of audiences. The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation [1].

Due impartiality usually involves more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints. We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected. It does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles, such as the right to vote, freedom of expression and the rule of law. We are committed to reflecting a wide range of subject matter and perspectives across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is under-represented or omitted.  

In applying due impartiality to news, we give due weight to events, opinion and the main strands of argument. We may produce content about any subject, at any point on the spectrum of debate, as long as there are good editorial reasons for doing so. 

We must always scrutinise arguments, question consensus and hold power to account with consistency and due impartiality.

Where our content highlights issues on which others campaign, we must take care not to endorse those campaigns, or allow ourselves to be used to campaign to change public policy. But this should not prevent us highlighting issues and offering our audiences choices about how to confront them.

The external activities and public comments, for example on social media, of staff, presenters and others who contribute to our output can also affect perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality. Consequently, this section should be read in conjunction with Section 15: Conflicts of Interest.

We should take account of the different political cultures and structures in different parts of the UK, and different cultural views in other communities. We should seek to ensure that differing main strands of argument in nations, regions and communities receive due weight and prominence in UK-wide output.

Audiences expect artists, writers and entertainers to have freedom to explore subjects from one perspective and to create content that reflects their own distinctive voice. It must be clear to audiences where personal views are being expressed.

[1] The section of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relates to this is 5: Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions. However, Rule 5.13 on Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions does not apply to the BBC. The Framework Agreement accompanying the BBC Charter requires us to observe the impartiality requirements of the Broadcasting Code; however, by applying ‘due impartiality’ to all output, we exceed that requirement.

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