TAPED, IN a rather low-tech way, to the top of my computer screen is a favourite newspaper headline, from The Independent in 1997: "BBC election coverage attacked as too fair".
BBC-baiting is such an enjoyable sport - it's easy, rewarding, and anyone can have a go. What value for money old Auntie provides, sitting there waiting to be picked off: a scandal of bureaucracy here, a royal snub there; always a squandered licence fee and - from my own patch - an outrage of political bias never far away.
We in the Westminster outpost of the Corporation are back with our tin helmets on, because a change in political editor is a always golden opportunity to dust down the old favourites... too pink, too establishment, too liberal - you name it. The accusations come from those experts in impartiality, a scattering of backbench MPs and their friends in various quarters of the print media.
Most of the time, many of them confuse impartiality with balance. There are times - during election campaigns - when the latter comes into play. But balance is science, whereas impartiality is art. And on this, I'm far from impartial: the fundamental, instinctive, obsessively important, binding culture of the BBC's political staff really is impartiality. It's genuinely difficult to see from the outside how integral it is to the way that every journalist approaches every story. But those who come into the Corporation- sometimes, perhaps, abandoning party colours - are struck by it and absorbed in it.
Impartiality doesn't mean "on the one hand this, on the other hand that". That can be straight reporting, but it doesn't necessarily help the audience. In politics, where news is often made not by pure facts or actual events, but by opinion, nuance, personality and timing, the vital ingredient in the journalism is sound judgement. It's vital that viewers and listeners know that when the journalist is delivering a judgement on a political issue, however harsh or favourable, it is clean. …