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The BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson referred to a ‘guerrilla war’ waged by alternative news sites [Image: Paul Hampartsoumian/Rex].


Social media criticism of Nick Robinson and the BBC are based on concerns that the corporation is biased in favour of the Conservative Party.

Mr Robinson, with his close ties to the Conservatives, is in no position to defend Auntie from such accusations. Nor is the BBC itself likely to be believed while it sends former board members to become Tory peers, and former reporters to become Tory PR bosses (to name just two recent events).

Still, his suggestions deserve to be considered.

Firstly, could the BBC do more to engage with people who get their updates from social media sites on Twitter? Sure. But BBC tweets are unlikely to gain credibility until the more serious problem – of trust – is addressed.

This brings us to Mr Robinson’s second suggestion – that the BBC should demonstrate its impartiality by, in effect, showing its workings when making decisions about what to report and how to do so.

But it is easy to spin a line to defend any decision – especially when there is no higher authority to rule otherwise. That’s how the BBC has got away with previous transgressions.

And there is no suggestion from Mr Robinson about when the BBC should admit that it was wrong, or that it did show bias. This is a real problem.

You see, social media organisations such as This Site (and thanks for not bothering to mention me, Mr Robinson! Charmed, I’m sure) have easy access to information that can support or undermine any news story you care to mention. In many cases this puts the BBC on extremely dodgy ground.

Look at my own clash with the BBC over whether the Conservatives have increased NHS funding in real terms or not (the BBC claimed they had; the facts showed otherwise). The BBC was wrong but spokespeople lied through their teeth.

At the time of writing, the BBC has come under heavy criticism for failing to cover the alleged (if you like) police brutality at the Catalan independence referendum in a balanced manner. It will be interesting to see how the Corporation justifies its decisions, if questioned in the matter.

It’s interesting that the conversation has swung towards the BBC, though. Initially, the plan was to insult social media sites by claiming they are published by amateurs. After this was proved untrue (I’m a fully-qualified reporter and former newspaper editor, for example) the attack shifted to claims that social media stories – and claims about mainstream media stories – were unsubstantiated. Those have proved baseless as well.

Now the debate has shifted to the behaviour of the mainstream. Will the mogul-led media prove as easy to defend?

Robinson suggested that the BBC should do more to engage with people disillusioned with the news and those who get their updates from social media while “looking at their phone on the loo”.

He also called for the BBC to promote and celebrate its impartiality by being more transparent about how it reaches editorial decisions. This could include, Robinson suggested, publishing the BBC’s “producers’ guidelines” in real time to demonstrate why a report has been worded a certain way, or disclosing the discussions and decisions at editorial meetings. The consequence of this would be that when the BBC received a complaint it could point to its workings.

Source: Nick Robinson’s ideas about how the BBC can regain trust are valid | Graham Ruddick | Media | The Guardian

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