BBC introduces new complaints system before Hutton reports

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The Independent Online

The BBC announced yesterday a new system for handling complaints, and denied it was an attempt to head off potential criticism from the Hutton inquiry into the death of the government weapons expert David Kelly.

Mark Byford, the head of the World Service, steps up to become deputy director general and right-hand man to Greg Dyke, with overall responsibility for the complaints and compliance procedures.

A review was started before the BBC became embroiled in the row about Andrew Gilligan's report on the Radio 4 Today programme about the Government's war dossier, and followed earlier concerns over the rigour of its handling of complaints. But the appointment will be seen as a pre-emptive strike before the report into the death of Dr Kelly is published in January.

One of the issues in the inquiry was how the BBC responded to complaints from Alastair Campbell, the Government's former communications chief, about Mr Gilligan's report.

The BBC's governors, who are responsible for ensuring its accountability and impartiality, discussed the issue two weeks ago and backed the new appointment on Mr Dyke's recommendation.

Mr Dyke said they were making a number of internal changes to modernise the complaints system. He said: "The most important of these is the appointment of a deputy director general who will take overall responsibility for this area. This means the second most important person in the management structure will now have a particular responsibility for compliance and complaints." The changes mean thatdepartments dealing with programming issues before and after broadcasting will report directly to Mr Byford.

Insiders insisted that it was not simply a move to fend off Hutton and neither was it a recognition of major inadequacies. One said: "It's about a more unified approach. It is not that we didn't take it seriously before but it is also about being seen to be taking it seriously."

My Byford, 45, has worked for the BBC for 24 years.

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