BBC tightens gag on staff

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has tightened its gag on staff talking to the press after a string of embarrassing rows involving some of its biggest-name presenters including news reporter Kate Adie and Terry Wogan.

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By  Marcus Webb Published  July 11, 2002

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has tightened its gag on staff talking to the press after a string of embarrassing rows involving some of its biggest-name presenters including news reporter Kate Adie and Terry Wogan.

The corporation has drawn up guidelines banning staff, freelancers and presenters from talking about the BBC "without prior agreement" from their bosses. Chapter 10 of the guidelines warns producers, editors and presenters not to write articles which may "undermine the BBC's impartiality". It also says news and current affairs presenters must not say anything off-air which may affect the public's perception of their on-air role.

The revised guidelines come after the BBC director general, Greg Dyke, issued a thinly veiled threat to sack presenters who publicly criticised the corporation.

In an email to corporation journalists at the end of last year, the director general hit out at "BBC on-air talent who seem to think it is fair game... to criticise the BBC while continuing to receive its money". Dyke said it was "not acceptable for certain people to think it is OK to go on public platforms, or into the press, and criticise the organisation".

BBC correspondent, Kate Adie recently angered management and female colleagues after she claimed at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the BBC favoured young reporters with "cute faces and cute bottoms" rather than experience.

Margaret Hill, the BBC's chief adviser on editorial policy, said: "The principle remains the same, that any outside interests should not damage the BBC's reputation for impartiality, but the new chapter should make it easier to make judgment calls in this difficult area."

Last year bosses carpeted the BBC’s arts correspondent, Rosie Millard, after she spoke to the press of her "humiliation" at being sidelined by the Six O'Clock News. BBC veteran Terry Wogan also sparked a slanging match with the BBC Choice chief, Stuart Murphy, after the Radio 2 DJ accused the corporation of "fiddling" audience figures and branded Grandstand "a joke". Rising star Murphy said Wogan was "out of touch, out of date, and seems to be living in the bizarre fantasy world of an Auntie's Bloomers script".

A BBC spokesman, quoted in The Guardian newspaper, said the relevant guidelines had always been in place but had been made "clearer than they were before". He added: "We expect these producer guidelines to be adhered to. Whether every department has enforced them in the past is another matter."

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