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BBC News faces independent impartiality review

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BBC logo at BBC Television Centre

© Rex Features

The BBC Trust has asked ITV chief executive Stuart Prebble to lead an independent review of the 'breadth of voice' in the corporation's news and current affairs output.

Prebble's review will follow up on a 2007 report by John Bridcut, titled From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, which set out principles for the BBC to "ensure it continued to achieve impartiality and provide the full breadth of views in its reporting".

Bridcut indentified that technological and social change had "led to a spread of opinion which went beyond the traditional divide of left versus right".

This meant that opinions were more like a 'wagon wheel' than a 'traditional see saw', and so he outlined a 12-point plan for the BBC to respond to the change.

The Prebble review will see how the BBC has implemented Bridcut's recommendations, as well as gauge how the corporation's "breadth of voice" has developed, including how it is reflected in reporting on "a number of current issues".

Alison Hastings, the chair of the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, said that it was the right time to "check up" on the BBC's progress against the Bridcut report.

"John Bridcut's 2007 report set a new standard for achieving impartiality - likening it to a 'wagon wheel' of opinions rather than the traditional 'see-saw' of left versus right," she said.

"Five years on, it's the right time to check up on the BBC's progress. Stuart Prebble's distinguished career in broadcasting, both as a programme-maker and as a CEO, puts him in an ideal position to take an informed view on how the BBC has responded to Bridcut's challenge."

BBC 'News 24' - Matthew Amriowalla and Jane Hill
Prebble said that he would be able to offer a "fresh perspective" on the BBC's operating, having spent almost his entire career outside of the corporation.

"I am delighted to have been invited to lead this important study for the BBC," he said. "Having spent most of my career outside the BBC I look forward to bringing a fresh perspective to examine how well the commitment to breadth of voice - which is unique to the BBC - is being met."

The review will commence in the autumn and conclusions are expected to be published in the summer of 2013, along with research and content analysis.

This marks the fifth impartiality review conducted by the BBC, following previous reviews of the BBC's coverage of business (2007); network news and current affairs coverage of the UK nations (2008); science (2011) and coverage of the 'Arab Spring' (2012).

Prebble started his career as a BBC graduate journalism trainee, but soon moved to Granada, where he edited World In Action and later became head of factual programming.

He was appointed ITV's first controller of factual programming and then went on to become managing director of channels and new media for Granada Media PLC, and chief executive of the ill-fated ITV Digital service.

He was appointed CEO of ITV in 2001 and co-founded independent production company Liberty Bell Productions. He is currently a director of Storyvault Films.

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