Letter to Tim Davie about BBC impartiality

21 October 2021

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs has written to BBC Director General Tim Davie following the recent reports that he blocked the appointment of Marcus Ryder to the position of Executive Editor for Newsbeat and Asian Network news, due to Ryder’s role as a prominent media diversity champion. If true, this implies that in the BBC’s view, campaigning for diversity would break impartiality guidelines.

BBC Broadcasting House

Although impartiality is a key value of the BBC, it is important to recognise that political impartiality does not and should not extend to campaigning on equality and diversity issues.

In her letter, Philippa Childs states that:

“Campaigning on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is wholly consistent with the values that the BBC represents. Being politically impartial and campaigning for media diversity are perfectly compatible, and in our view necessary, and to suggest otherwise will seriously undermine confidence amongst staff.”

Such claims allow for legitimate concerns from creatives and employees that are seeking clarification about the BBC’s editorial guidance on impartiality. An open letter signed by black journalists and creatives to BBC Chairman Richard Sharp, has called for written reassurance that Marcus Ryder’s campaign work around diversity has not brought impartiality into question.

Bectu stands with these campaigners, and in the letter Childs states that it is not a “tenable position to continue to say that the BBC doesn’t comment on appointments, and Bectu must instead clarify that [they] do not have any concerns relating to Marcus’s impartiality.”

The BBC must clarify that campaigning on equality and diversity does not break impartiality guidance and reassure current and future employees that campaigning on such issues will not put them at a disadvantage.

Read the full letter here.