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Questioning time for BBC

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2003-11-26

BBC news

BBC news

Over 700 people packed a hall in central London to watch and listen to a Question Time-style event that looked at the Middle East and how the BBC covers the region.

Organised by the Zionist Federation and chaired by Prof Eric Moonman, 'The Media - Truth or Bias' evening on Monday at Logan Hall came a few weeks after the appointed of veteran journalist Malcolm Balen to an executive role at the BBC looking into its Middle Eastern coverage.

The panel of guests included Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, solicitor Trevor Asserson, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside  Louise Ellman and the BBC's head of newsgathering, Adrian van Klaveren.

""I don't think the appointment of Malcolm Balen will make a deal of difference," Phillips said. "They recognise that they have a problem, but they don't know yet what that problem is. There is a genuine desire to solve the problem but the problem is that they cannot see what the problem is."

Asserson, who has been criticial of the BBC and is sceptical of what Malcolm Balen will do. "Balen's boss is the head of BBC News, he has no clear access to the BBC governors, and had no budget to speak of. He faces an incredible, uphill task."

For the BBC, head of news gathering van Klaveren believes that over the course of time, people will recognise that the BBC takes a unbiased stance. "This is not about perception, but to make our reporting better," he said. "We try to achieve reporting that is neutral, but reflects many points of view."