Television interviewers to be reminded that rudeness is off agenda

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The Independent Online
DISCOURTEOUS interviewers yesterday attracted condemnation from the governors of the BBC. In an unusual addition to the corporation's annual review and accounts, the governors said one of their aims for the coming year was 'to ensure that BBC interviewers maintain standards of proper courtesy while rigorously testing the position of interviewees'.

To single out for criticism a particular practice in the news and current affairs department would normally be regarded as the prerogat ive of the BBC board of managers, not the part-time governors, who are political appointees. But Michael Stevenson, the BBC secretary, said the governors were there to represent the public interest and had received many complaints about interviewing techniques.

He would not say which interviewers were involved, but some politicians have criticised John Humphrys of Radio 4's Today and Jeremy Paxman of Newsnight on BBC 2. The Prime Minister was reported last week to have refused to be interviewed by Mr Paxman.

Among the governors' other aims for next year are to increase production of programmes outside London, to improve coverage of science and technology and 'to ensure that the press and public develop a clearer understanding of the BBC's purposes, policies and achievements'. They plan to publish for the first time a bulletin of complaints received about programmes.

Much of the review is taken up with an assessment of the last year by John Birt, the director-general, and his plans for the future. Among points he emphasises are:

BBC output must not be remote, 'as if made for some approving minority'.

In entertainment, 'performance is fitful . . . Too much of our output is formulaic and tired'.

Radio 2 should do more for older listeners with better use made of archive material.

Research indicates that the proposed all-news radio network will be welcomed by listeners between 25 and 44.

The BBC should resist the trend towards emphasising entertainment values in news and current affairs. 'Instead, we should emphasise our seriousness of purpose.'

Regional journalism must be improved.

As a result of the 'producer choice' internal market system, between 10 and 15 per cent of production work formerly done by BBC departments was going to outside contractors.

Introducing the accounts, Rodney Baker-Bates, director of finance, said that savings on overheads and profits from commercial operations had allowed more money to be invested in programmes.

Staff numbers had been reduced by 2,178, or 9 per cent of the work force, but the cost of this and other efficiency measures was pounds 100.6m.

The BBC Annual Review; available from bookshops; pounds 3.99.

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