BBC News' journalists failure to understand "basic economics" is bringing a "high risk to impartiality," according to a BBC-commissioned report.
The finding was contained in the first BBC impartiality review, of which several more will be published over the coming months. Since taking on the role in September 2020, BBC Director General Tim Davie has prioritized overcoming issues with impartiality at a time when the corporation is under the government spotlight.
Today's Review of the impartiality of BBC coverage of taxation, public spending, government borrowing and debt judged BBC News innocent of displaying deliberate political bias but highlighted several pitfalls.
Responding, the BBC Board said Davie and his team will address the issues presented in the review with a proposed action plan.
Too many journalists "lack an understanding of basic economics or lack confidence reporting it," which brings a "high risk to impartiality," the report found.
Furthermore, Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot, who penned the 50-page review, said they were "disturbed by how many [viewers] said they didn't understand [the BBC's] coverage," especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
"Should broad impartiality concern itself with the extent to which different groups find the coverage accessible?," wrote the pair. "We think it should."
The report said journalists struggle to communicate that "fiscal policy decisions are political choices and are not inevitable." Examples were raised of BBC journalists saying the government "will have to" carry out a specific economic manoeuvre when there were in fact several choices on offer.
"Politically-led news is vulnerable to groupthink," added the report. "The language of necessity takes subtle forms; if the BBC adopts it, it can sound perilously close to policy endorsement."
Other issues highlighted included "excessive interruption by interviewers" and BBC journalists' "skating on thin ice" when using social media to communicate stories about the economy.
While the authors stressed "there's much to admire in BBC output on tax, public spending, government borrowing and debt" and downplayed accusations of deliberate political bias, they urged journalists to better grasp the concepts they are covering and "make the most of the expertise already out there."
BBC News' journalists are required to be impartial and in recent years, with the rise of social media, the subject has become an increasingly thorny topic. High profile incidents such as a journalist saying "Am I allowed to be this gleeful?" after Boris Johnson pulled out of the prime ministerial race and another failing to challenge a vaccine skeptic who claimed that Covid jabs cause heart damage, have been damaging to the team's reputation.
Today's review is one of a series due to be released over the coming months as the BBC inspects its approach to impartiality in all areas.
The Board's statement said the review will "help the BBC in how it most effectively engages in story selection and framing of those stories, while pointing to a valuable role for the BBC to play in increasing understanding of these issues and how they affect all audiences."
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