14 November 2012, 19:30

Journalism standards slipping - expert

Journalism standards slipping - expert
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Charlie Beckett, a media expert with the London School of Economics, speaks on the recent scandal that has shaken Britain's traditional broadcaster BBC and changes we might see in journalism

This latest crisis is certainly not the first time. Like any good journalistic organization the BBC has in the past had clashes with Government, it had clashes with companies or individuals because that’s the nature of good journalism. But in this case it was actually the journalism itself that was at fault. And it wasn’t just that there was particular mad mistake made, I mean that was bad enough, but there was a sense that the management system of editorial decision making at the BBC wasn’t working properly – that they didn’t take up on the risks involved, they didn’t oversee standards properly and then when things went wrong they didn’t respond properly to that either. So, you can see that in that sense Chris Patten is right that it is worth looking at the way the BBC runs internally as well as just trying to find out which journalist made a mistake.

As the member of the trade I can see that journalism standards are generally becoming lower everywhere across the globe, in the eastern and the western parts of the world. But the reforms are always a painful process. If we are talking about the decision making within the BBC – this system has operated during the best times of the corporation. Perhaps it would need something less than just playing reforming.

Well, I think that actually there is a lot of terrific journalism out there in the world. You only have to read great magazines like the Economist. And there is a lot of choice out there and now we’ve got Al Jazeera, people like the Voice of Russia as well as the big traditional companies like the BBC. But the BBC, like all of the journalists today, is facing an upheaval because of new media, because of political pressure, because of economic pressure. It is facing cutbacks in its budget and is having to doubt this whole new media environment. So, it is not surprising that in this time of change sometimes standards are going to slip. And there is a fear that overall standards will slip if people have their budgets reduced too much or if there is too much pressure on people to make a profit. So, I think one of the key tasks for the BBC is to make sure that journalistic standards right across the board, not just for investigative journalism, are maintained.

To think of the short term – we are going to see quite a few faces being changed, we are going to see new people coming in. And I think that would be one of the best things if the BBC was able to bring in people from outside because a lot of people understand that the BBC worked all their lives, they love the place and they aren’t doing it just for the money – they do it because they believe in what they are doing, they believe in that kind of objective journalism. But there is a danger that you do get at closed system. So, I think it would be great if the BBC could try and bring in more people to all levels, but especially in the leadership who have got a more critical perspective and fresh ideas.

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