David Elstein: he BBC was right to scrap its day of special programming on climate change?

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The Independent Online

The BBC is surely right to abandon plans to broadcast a Planet Relief event. The criticism at the Edinburgh TV Festival from such BBC luminaries as senior news executive Peter Horrocks and Newsnight editor Peter Barron simply echoed that of the BBC's role in the Live Aid anniversary concert of 2005.

A report this summer on BBC impartiality, commissioned by the BBC Trust and BBC management, told in sorry detail how campaigners led by Richard Curtis captured the BBC's editorial processes, injecting an explicit campaigning video into an episode of The Vicar of Dibley, written by Curtis, and then pressuring the BBC to include in its live coverage of the planned concert all the other campaigning videos the organisers had prepared.

Doggedly, the BBC fended off the lobbying, replacing all the overt proselytising with its own BBC-made videos. But no producer was quick enough to prevent Jonathan Ross, hosting the broadcast, from referring viewers to the campaigners' website, whilst winking heavily and saying: "We're the BBC, so of course I can't do that!"

Ian Hargreaves, watching the show, was gobsmacked. The media pundit, one-time BBC executive and former Independent editor regarded this as the gravest breach of BBC impartiality he had witnessed.

Reporting on climate change, emphasising the importance of the issue, even showing Al Gore's documentary, are all legitimate actions. Joining a campaigning bandwagon is not.

The author is a former chief executive of Channel 5.

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