Biased reporting and the BBC

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The Independent Online
From Ms Cathy Aitchison

Sir: In the debate on biased reporting by the BBC, there are three key factors which also need considering.

First, the need to avoid bias has encouraged a style of reporting that can itself distort the truth. To cover an issue, news editors set up a discussion presenting two opposite sides to the argument, whether or not it has two clear sides. They tend also to prefer speakers who will disagree rather than acknowledge each other's contribution, and to select for live debate those issues which will divide.

Second, although editors may not actually ask themselves: "Why is this person lying to me?" the system of having specialist correspondents has encouraged the view that "the truth" can be obtained only from in-house speakers, who are therefore given a full hearing, whereas all others' opinions must be challenged.

Third, as always, the corrupt and the divisive are seen as news and less weight is given to situations where opposite sides are co-operating towards a solution (for example, in the work of all-party parliamentary groups).

A real breakthrough will have taken place when all news editors - not just at the BBC - approach stories from the point of view that asks: "How can we all work together to solve this problem?" This is what viewers and listeners actually want to hear.

Yours faithfully,

CATHY AITCHISON

London, W9

28 March

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