A commitment by the BBC Executive to improve and broaden its rural affairs coverage has been welcomed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the UK’s largest shooting organisation.
The BBC has committed to appoint a senior editor with responsibility for rural affairs, to identify three correspondents from regional and local newsrooms to provide more material for national news and to broaden the range of contacts used in the reporting of rural affairs issues.
The commitment came in response to an independent review of rural affairs coverage commissioned by the BBC Trust, the BBC’s governing body. The review found that there was “room for improvement” and a “deficit” in UK-wide coverage of rural England. It recommended that the post of rural affairs correspondent be reinstated, a measure which BASC called for in a letter published in the Times newspaper (18th June). The report criticised the BBC’s disproportionate reliance on a small number of external bodies for input and comment and said it focussed too much on conflict and protest. It also identified a tendency for news to concentrate on environmental issues and said there is a need to increase coverage of the economic and social dimensions of rural life.
Richard Ali, BASC chief executive, said: “We welcome this report and the recognition by BBC management of the need to make improvements. The BBC now needs to ensure that rural life is better-represented in national news. They should start by adopting the recommendation to appoint a rural affairs correspondent. Agenda-setting news desks in London need to see further and reach out to properly reflect rural life. As the report pointed out, everyone has a stake in the countryside, whether they live in the country, in the city or on the coast. The BBC should also take on board the warning that its coverage is too reliant on conflict and protest. In reality, there are many complex issues which are not simply polarised into for-and-against positions. They can only be addressed by cooperation and partnerships across wide ranges of interest groups and stakeholders. BASC supports and engages in efforts to find these complex solutions across broad areas of interest. It may not make for easy sound-bites, but the BBC and its journalists are eminently capable of skilled and detailed reporting.”
“I am also pleased to note that the report calls for more emphasis on the economic and social life of the countryside. True sustainability comes from the balance of economic, environmental and social issues. A forthcoming report will reflect the contribution of shooting to all three of these areas. We hope that it will be properly reported and will be part of the beginning of better coverage of rural affairs.”
Pictured: Richard Ali being interviewed by BBC Countryfile.