[HCDX] BBC-The Guardian
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[HCDX] BBC-The Guardian

John Plunkett The Guardian

Friday November 29, 2002

The BBC has issued a moratorium on

programme editors writing newspaper

columns in a bid to avert a repeat of the

"Liddlegate" affair.

Former Today programme editor Rod

Liddle resigned from his post on the

flagship Radio 4 show in September after

he attacked the Countryside Alliance in the


Corporation bosses are attempting to draw a line under the

by banning programme editors from ever writing a newspaper

column again.

Presenters such as John Humphrys and correspondents including

Andrew Marr will still be able to contribute to newspapers,

editors have been singled out by the BBC News hierarchy
because of

the need to appear "impartial".

"Programme editors are not allowed to enter into new

arrangements with newspapers," said a spokesman.

"But there is a distinction between editors and presenters.

edit the programmes and as such they have to be impartial. The

ultimate responsibility for impartiality lies with the editor,
and not

with the journalist."

Liddle was accused of "blatant bias, animus and even party

allegiance" by the Daily Telegraph after his controversial
column, and

even provoked the ire of lyricist Tim Rice in the Daily Mail.

He stepped down from Today after bosses ordered him to choose

between his Guardian column and the programme.

Earlier this year the BBC tightened its gag on staff talking
to the

press after a string of embarrassing rows involving some of

biggest presenters.

It drew up guidelines banning staff, freelancers and
presenters from

talking about the BBC "without prior agreement" from their

And it warned producers, editors and presenters not to write

articles which may "undermine the BBC's impartiality".

The BBC director general, Greg Dyke, has issued a thinly
veiled threat

to sack presenters who criticise the corporation. In an email

year, following embarrassing outbursts by Kate Adie and Nicky

Campbell, Mr Dyke said it was "not acceptable for certain
people to

think it is OK to go on public platforms, or into the press,

criticise the organisation."

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