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BBC defends impartiality amid criticism

By
Mark Thompson

© MGEITF

The BBC has defended its impartiality after its director general Mark Thompson was seen going to a meeting in Downing Street to discuss the BBC's coverage of the government's spending cuts.

Yesterday, Thompson was photographed on his way to a briefing at Number 10 carrying a print-out of an internal email from BBC News director Helen Boaden.

The email revealed that Boaden had attended a lunch with Andy Coulson, the coalition government's director of communications, at which he called on the BBC to "give context to our Spending Review Season".

Boaden's email also gave Thompson information on the spending cuts coverage, which starts next week on the BBC's TV, radio and online services. The subject line of the email indicated that it was for a briefing with Steve Hilton, who is David Cameron's director of strategy.

The revelation has led to criticism of the BBC's due impartiality for its coverage of the spending cuts season, which will be a pivotal period for the new coalition.

Ed Miliband, one of the Labour leadership candidates, told the Daily Mail that the meeting was "deeply worrying".

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Labour MP Michael Dugher added: "The BBC should be standing up for its independence and should not be bullied by Cameron’s aides with the threat of cutbacks.

"The BBC gave Labour a hard time when we were in Government and it is well within its rights to continue with the Tories."

However, a spokesman for the corporation said: "The director general has made it repeatedly clear that the impartiality of the BBC is paramount.

"The director general in his role as editor-in-chief discussed the possible participation of a number of members of the government in the BBC's coverage of the spending review this autumn.

"The BBC has regular meetings with both government and opposition parties. Both he and colleagues will also be talking to all the main political parties on this issue."

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