Tory peer urges BBC to publish Balen report into Israeli-Palestinian coverage

The Lords saw questions about Lord Dyson's inquiry into the 1995 Panorama Diana interview.

A Tory peer has urged the BBC to “make absolutely clear where it admits responsibility” following the publication of the Dyson inquiry, and commit to releasing another report into its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Former BBC director of news Richard Sambrook commissioned the 2004 Balen report into the corporation’s coverage following complaints from the public and the Israeli government about anti-Israel bias.

Senior journalist Malcolm Balen examined thousands of hours of BBC coverage of the conflict and produced a document that has never been published, despite a six-year legal battle.

Lord Dyson – Bashir report
Lord Dyson (Yui Mok/PA)

During questions in the Lords about former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson’s blistering report, Lord Hayward called on the BBC to “admit responsibility” and commit to further transparency.

He said: “Can I welcome the comments made by the ministerial team both in this House and the other place over the last day or so. Can I also welcome the announcement that the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) Select Committee is to look at this matter.

“Can I therefore call on the BBC to clear the plate, clear the slate, get a move on, make absolutely clear where it admits responsibility, but commit for the future that it will publish the likes of the Balen report and make absolutely clear when it has people commenting on news items what their well-known political positions are.”

Baroness Barran, parliamentary under-secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, for the Conservatives, replied: “My noble friend is absolutely right that the BBC needs urgently to demonstrate that the failings to which he refers to have been addressed and that they can never happen again, and that there is trust restored in a culture of transparency and accountability within the BBC.”

Lord Dyson – Bashir report
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir (BBC/PA)

Crossbench peer Baroness Deech, a BBC governor between 2002 and 2006, called for an independent ombudsman to oversee the broadcaster.

She said: “The problem of trust in the BBC today is not at the core one of governance. It is one of inbreeding. Ofcom is not the solution because it too has many former BBC employees on its committees.

“The chances of a complaint succeeding are about nil. The answer is oversight by a completely independent ombudsman with no links to the BBC. This is the pattern adopted for other professions such as financial, legal and medical.

“Does the noble lady agree that as long as problems and complaints are dealt with internally and with BBC people there can be no perception of impartiality?”

Crossbencher Viscount Colville of Culross suggested the Panorama interview should still be aired despite controversy over how it was secured by Martin Bashir.

He said it was “a seminal part of the understanding of the history of this country in the 1990s” and questioned whether to “prohibit future airings of the interview is to sensor our history and limit freedom of expression”.

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

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