Call Yourself An Impartial Journalist?


2019042620190616 (R4)

Amid the anger increasingly directed at broadcast journalists from those who claim that the so-called "mainstream media" can't be trusted, a battle is being fought over impartiality.

The big, regulated broadcasters - including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky - argue that their output has to meet the test of "due impartiality"; their critics claim that too often programmes in fact evince bias.

In this documentary, Jonathan Coffey - who has worked on major stories for "Panorama" for over a decade - explores what impartiality means as our politics and national discourse have become increasingly polarised. Does it still matter as a concept for broadcasters? And how should broadcasters approach controversial issues like Brexit, immigration and transgenderism?

He considers how well impartiality is understood, the arguments advanced by the broadcasters' critics about alleged failures of impartiality; the BBC's track record on reflecting significant strands of thinking; the "liberal media bubble"; how far broadcasters are open-minded in avoiding biases; and if a more rigorous and radical open-minded journalistic approach is needed, especially in the coverage of deep value disputes.

Among those taking part: columnist, Rod Liddle; Kerry-anne Mendoza, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and editor-in-chief of the news website, "The Canary"; BBC director of editorial policy and standards, David Jordan; presenter of Channel 4 News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy; Emily Maitlis, presenter of BBC TWO's "Newsnight" and author of "Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News"; ITV's political editor, Robert Peston; Richard Sambrook, a director of BBC News from 2001 to 2010; and philosopher Jason Baehr, author of "The Inquiring Mind".

Producer Simon Coates

Jonathan Coffey asks what impartiality now means for broadcasters in a polarised society.