The BBC opposes so-called “cancel culture” and will actively provide a platform for individuals with contrary viewpoints, according to the man who enforces its editorial standards.
David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy, said the broadcaster should “represent all points of view” and wanted to see a belief in impartiality triumph over identity.
“We are very committed to ensuring that viewpoints are heard from all different sorts of perspectives and we don’t subscribe to the ‘cancel culture’ that some groups would put forward,” he said.
Jordan said everyone should expect their views to be appropriately represented by the national broadcaster – even if they believe the Earth is flat. “It’s critical to the BBC that we represent all points of view and give them due weight,” he said.
“Flat-earthers are not going to get as much space as people who believe the Earth is round, but very occasionally it might be appropriate to interview a flat-earther. And if a lot of people believed in flat Earth we’d need to address it more.”
Asked about issues such as transgender rights, Jordan told the House of Lords communications committee that impartiality should triumph over personal identity. He criticised the New York Times for some of its editorial choices in this area and said individual BBC staff should not be able to veto coverage.
“Whether or not some members of our staff like it is not the point. They leave their prejudices at the door … they need to be prepared to hear viewpoints they might personally disagree with. It’s our job to get those viewpoints proportionately viewed on the BBC,” Jordan said.
Tim Davie, the director general, is attempting to put impartiality at the centre of his pitch for the future of the corporation’s news division and has already cracked down on social media use and announced ongoing impartiality reviews. However, the corporation is currently dealing with internal staff battles over its approach to covering topics such as politics, race and gender self-identification with wider questions about who gets to define impartiality.
Davie said he was aware of staff concerns that the focus on impartiality could leave BBC journalists reluctant to take risks and make bold editorial decisions. He also accepted that the BBC’s understanding of where it needs to change its editorial approach is often shaped by external forces.
“We are beasts of the wider world. If we’re sensing there is genuine concern about an area or we’re getting more complaints in an area, that will help inform our decisions about where we want to focus our internal reviews,” Davie said.