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Response to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines Consultation

Introduction

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), seeks to represents the common interest of the UK’s diverse Muslim communities. Founded in 1997, it is the largest umbrella body of its kind in the UK with over 500 affiliates. It is pledged to work for the common good of society as a whole. A democratic body underpinned by a constitution, the Muslim Council of Britain’s affiliate base reflects the diversity of Muslims in the UK, being made up of hundreds of mosques, educational and charitable bodies, cultural and relief agencies and women and youth groups and associations across the UK from a range of ethnic, geographical and theological backgrounds and traditions.

The MCB has launched a Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), whose goal is to promote fair and responsible reporting of Muslims and Islam through constructive engagement. This submission is on behalf of the CfMM.

The BBC is a public service broadcaster with the important core mission of informing, educating and entertaining, and aims to be a trusted guide for everyone. Two of its five public purposes are to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” and to “reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions…” (Section 1, Purposes 1 and 4) – purposes that are relevant to this submission and cited in the Draft Guidelines.

There is an expectation that it continues to aspire to highest standards with respect to independence, impartiality and integrity. However, this will depend on the commitment to fulfil its vision: that it should “help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the UK”; to “speak to people with a range of characteristics and to better understand the concerns outlined above by different minority groups.” Furthermore, it is important that it speaks to audiences across the UK to better understand their reflections on how the nations are represented and portrayed.

The MCB welcomes the opportunity to input into The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines Consultation. This document reflects the views of our affiliates, and, we believe, across a broad spectrum of Muslim communities in the UK. Muslims in Britain comprise 5% of the population in England and Wales, with audience expectations for quality output from the BBC much the same as everyone else. Our major broadcaster has responsibilities towards all sections of British society.

The majority of the British Public say what they know about Islam is acquired through the media,1 and whilst the most reprehensible anti-Muslim bigotry is documented to be within sections of the print press, this submission puts forward concerns related to Islamophobia and the portrayal of Muslims specifically from the BBC.

Despite the wealth of positive and valuable output of the BBC, given this is a consultation on the guidelines, this submission focusses on concerns and challenges with a view to providing tangible and pragmatic improvements to the Guidelines.

In this submission we carry forward major points raised in two earlier opportunities: in January 2013 with the BBC Trusts Impartiality Review, and more recently in February 2017 with Director General Lord Hall. At the former, based on information provided us by former BBC employees, we conveyed concerns with an institutional culture that limited management and newsroom opportunities for BME professionals. Five years on, there have been positive steps in this regard. At the latter, our concerns related to story lines and terminology, and also, once too often, the airtime given to those who stir hatred, without adequate challenge. In an increasingly xenophobic and Islamophobic climate, these are serious matters that require BBC action.

This submission is split into the following sections:

Section 2: Language
Section 3: Contributors
Section 4: Inaccuracies
Section 5: Consistency

Section 6 will then list all the recommendations for changes to the Guidelines