Steven Barnett On NewsWatch
This week Steven Barnett appeared on BBC NewsWatch to discuss Ofcom and the BBC. Steven Barnett outlined the changes which were implemented from the beginning of April, giving Ofcom responsibility for oversight of the BBC in respect of accuracy and impartiality. These responsibilities used to lie with the BBC Trust, which was disbanded following recommendations from Sir David Clementi that a new BBC “unitary board” should be regulated externally by Ofcom in all areas including its journalism – even though Ofcom had originally made it clear that it was reluctant to take on a new regulatory burden which would inevitably be controversial. Steven Barnett warned that these changes would almost certainly lead to greater politicisation of Ofcom, who will face intense pressure in particular from BBC critics and right-wing newspapers whenever their adjudications are deemed to favour the BBC. While to date the UK’s communications regulator had proved very adept at absorbing a number of different regulatory roles and had a worldwide reputation for independence and integrity, BBC impartiality was a potential regulatory minefield which could easily distract from Ofcom’s core functions.