News at Six Complaint Stage 2: Viewer Response 10

Subject: Re: News at Six, 22 & 24 July 2014
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2014 09:57:00 +0000
To: James Harding Complaints <>

Dear Mr Balen and/or Mr Harding,

Thank you for confirming that BBC News does not regard the official announcement of the June deficit as a ‘major matter‘.

I suspected as much when I saw your economics/business correspondent describe it as a “rather boring number“. A suspicion reinforced when the Six made no mention of it and regarded a conference on FGM to be due much greater prominence and weight. Now you have confirmed this to be the professional editorial judgement of BBC News it is no longer a matter of  suspicion but of established fact.

The question now is: Was that professional judgement rooted in evidence or not?

In support of my case I submit the hard factual evidence that:

  1. Many people are suffering from austerity and spending cuts
  2. The only justification for those cuts is the need to balance the books and reduce the deficit
  3. The economy is one of the key issues at the heart of the election and spending cuts to reduce the deficit will be a central argument of that election.

News of how the deficit is progressing on a monthly basis is therefore a matter of major public concern, a major issue at the heart of the election and central to enabling the electorate to reach a properly informed decision. Therefore the announcement of the monthly deficit figures is a major matter that can not be balanced over time.

In support of your case you offer the circular argument that, because major matters can not be balanced over time, BBC News does not regard the announcement of the monthly deficit figures as a major matter.

If civil engineers failed to report cracks in bridges until they collapsed, plumbers failed to report faults in boilers until people were gassed, or social workers failed to report problems in families until children died, BBC News would have no problem understanding what was wrong with that.

If they then attempted to justify their lack of reporting in terms of balancing their reports over time, BBC News would be asking the hard questions.

If it is the professional judgement of BBC News that what’s good for the gander is not good for the goose, then that judgement must be rooted in evidence. If it is, then there ought to be no problem making that evidence available for public scrutiny. If it isn’t then it’s a biased view, lacking in due impartiality, and may not be expressed in BBC output.

I do not accept that referring me to another body absolves you of the responsibility of commenting further on the substance of my appeal. The BBC, like any news organisation, makes mistakes. When they do they should try to get to the bottom of them quickly and correct them. More than ever there is a need for accountability. It is only when people in power are asked directly to account for what they have done that the public can judge the choices they have made.

Don’t take my word for it. Read what the Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, James Harding, wrote two weeks ago in his blogpost and in The Telegraph.

Yours sincerely

Ian McNulty


Chain of Correspondence:

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