CBI membership is undermining BBC’s impartiality says NUJ


  By a Newsnet reporter
The BBC’s refusal to resign its membership of the CBI is damaging the work of its journalists and undermining the corporation’s impartiality, the National Union of Journalists has said.
In a meeting held at the BBC’s Glasgow HQ, the corporation’s Scottish NUJ members called for the BBC to resign immediately from the business lobbying group, after the London based organisation formally joined the No campaign.

In a statement released this evening, the NUJ in Scotland revealed it had written to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall, requesting that the broadcaster resign immediately from the CBI.

Earlier today, NUJ members at Pacific Quay held an emergency meeting following the revelations that the BBC was a member of the CBI.  The lobbying group has been at the centre of controversy after it announced it had registered as an official campaigner against Scottish independence.

BBC Scotland members voted to back the following motion:

“This Chapel is concerned by the damage being done to the work of its members, and to the reputation of BBC journalism, by the Corporation’s membership of the CBI.

“We note that the CBI is seeking to de-register with the electoral commission as a non-party campaigner for the Union. But the damage of association remains.

“BBC Scotland journalists are proud to work under strict guidelines on impartiality.

“This is entirely undermined by the BBC retaining a link with an organisation allied to one side of the independence debate.

“Please, Director General, back your Scottish journalists, allow us to do our jobs, re-assert our impartiality, and immediately resign from the CBI.”

Paul Holloran, Scottish NUJ Organiser, said: “There was a real concern and anxiety about the damage that CBI membership is causing.  Journalists are already under enough pressure without being caught up in a shambles that is not of their making.”

The move will pile even more pressure on the BBC after management were criticised for refusing to resign from the CBI, instead announcing a suspension of the current membership.  However the suspension will not be enforced until May 30th, leaving the BBC an active member of an organisation that is officially campaigning on behalf of Better Together.

BBC Scotland chiefs have refused to answer questions posed by Newsnet Scotland in which we sought to determine whether BBC Scotland management had been consulted on the decision to suspend the CBI membership.  Newsnet Scotland also asked if anyone at the BBC had been consulted by the CBI prior to it registering with the Electoral Commission.

The fall-out over the CBI’s decision to back the No campaign has already led to over twenty Scottish based organisations either resigning or suspending their membership.  One of the first to quit the lobbying group was the BBC’s Scottish based rival STV after the broadcaster claimed the CBI move had compromised its own impartiality.

This weekend the CBI’s Director General John Cridland tried to backtrack on his organisation’s stance by claiming he had not been aware of the move to register with the Electoral ommission.  Cridland blamed the move on a junior official. 

Despite claiming not to be trying to influence Scottish voters, the CBI website has dedicated sections containing pro-Union literature, which include articles written by Cridland himself in which he claims “we are stronger together” 

The CBI is currently trying to have its Electoral Commission registration nullified.