Tuesday, October 12
The BBC Trust has today published new editorial guidelines in response to the Manuelgate scandal, including a crackdown on any "humiliating" remarks about public figures.
In a statement today, the Trust said that its revised guidelines include "new requirements aimed at protecting people (not fictional or historic characters) from unduly humiliating or derogatory remarks for the purposes of entertainment".
The Trust said that the proviso was not intended to prevent comedy or jokes about people in the public eye, but ensure that "such comments and their tone are proportionate to their target".
The change is widely viewed as a response to Russell Brand's 2008 Radio 2 show, in which he and Jonathan Ross left lewd messages on the answerphone of actor Andrew Sachs.
The ensuing scandal led to Brand and the Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas resigning from the BBC, while Ross was suspended for three months.
Last October, the Trust launched a public consultation on the new set of editorial guidelines put forward by the BBC Executive. More than 1,600 responses were submitted to the consultation from individuals and organisations.
Among the changes approved today is an extension of the impartiality rule covering news and current affairs programming to factor in subjects relating to religion, science, culture and ethics.
There are also new requirements to ensure that the BBC avoids "misleading audiences through programme editing or commentary, or through competitions which are not genuine". That includes tighter guidelines on any talent shows offering 'life-changing opportunities'.
After high-profile criticism last year of the BBC's excessive promotion of a new U2 album and Radio 1's "Harry Potter Day", the Trust has also created new rules on the "cumulative effect of repeated mentions of brands or products, such as films or bands".
Sir Michael Lyons, the Trust's outgoing chairman, said: "We recognise the need for the BBC to be original, surprising and sometimes edgy. At the same time it must be fair, accurate, impartial and avoid giving broad offence.
"The need to get that right lies at the heart of these editorial guidelines - it's always been clear that the public expects the very highest standards from the BBC, and the editorial guidelines are a vital tool in achieving that."
He added: "It's important to get them right, but it's also important to ensure that they're implemented in a way that does not over-complicate the making of great programmes.
"The director general and his team should continue to ensure that processes are made clear and simple, and that everyone understands what is expected of them.
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