Letter: BBC charges in
Tuesday 20 April 1999
Sir: Contrary to your accusation that I am "leading the charge" against the BBC's coverage of the Balkan war (leading article, 17 April), I think it has been exemplary.
I made two specific and limited criticisms. The first was of the initial shortage of health warnings on reports from Belgrade. Listeners and viewers must be reminded of the restrictions under which journalists there operate, in particular, their lack of access to Kosovo, which means Serb actions go unreported. The BBC soon rectified this.
My second criticism was of senior BBC correspondents writing regular newspaper columns. This was prompted by John Simpson's Sunday Telegraph piece in the first week of the conflict headlined "Why this war isn't working".
The BBC has traditionally barred its correspondents from writing opinionated pieces for the newspapers, because it damages their impartiality and credibility in the job the licence fee payer pays them to do for the BBC. That policy was good for the BBC and the interests of independent public service journalism. If it has changed, we should be told.
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