More than any other media outlet, the BBC relies on a reputation for independence and impartiality. It is a status that is both the result of its public funding, and an implicit part of the bargain.
Regardless of growing pressure to commission content from outside the corporation itself, everything that is shown on its channels must meet the same standards, even in the commercial environment of BBC World.
Commercial messages may be increasingly tolerated as the pay-off for free content, as is accepted across both the internet and much traditional media. But there is no room for compromise at the BBC. It is vital that coverage of contentious issues – such as food production in Asia or the protection of Malaysian rainforests – must be seen to be handled by programme-makers with no vested interests.
That the producers of such programmes failed to disclose to the BBC that they were part of a media organisation that received millions of pounds from the Malaysian government must give cause for concern.
So too is the fact the BBC did not have the means to discover this before programmes were broadcast.