So, in a joint statement the BBC has announced it is to “suspend” its membership of the CBI due to the CBI’s status as an official “No” campaign. There are still many questions that the BBC needs to answer. I have 25 that I think urgently need to be answered. Perhaps you can think of more.
1. Why did it take so long for the BBC to act, given that it had been reporting for a week on other organisations leaving the CBI to maintain neutrality?
2. When did the BBC first become aware of the CBI’s stance as being opposed to independence?
3. During the time the BBC was aware of the CBI’s stance, how many times did it quote the CBI on the issue of independence?
4. Why did the BBC never declare its interest while reporting the CBI’s views on independence?
5. What are the terms of the “suspension” from the CBI?
6. Why is the BBC an unsuspended member until the 30th May?
7. How can it report impartially on the referendum while still an unsuspended member?
8. What does the BBC pay the CBI for membership per year? How are those payments split?
9. Was the BBC aware that it was funding partisan campaigning by making those payments?
10. Is the BBC aware of the anti-independence materials the CBI has already prepared and publicised, for example their current website materials?
11. Are these appropriate materials for the BBC to fund with our licence fees?
12. How long has the BBC been a member of CBI?
13. Why is the BBC a member of the CBI?
14. Was the BBC a member of the CBI while it reported on issues the CBI has campaigned or lobbied on?
15. Was the BBC a member of the CBI when the BBC has reported on issue of occupational pensions? Or when the CBI has been quoted by the BBC on the issue of occupational pensions?
16. Was the BBC a member of the CBI when the BBC has reported on or the CBI has been quoted by the BBC on taxation? On executive pay?
On public services? On immigration policy? On employment law? On the economy? On any of the issues that the CBI campaigns or lobbies on?
17. Was the BBC a member of the CBI during any industrial dispute in which it has sought quotes from CBI figures?
18. Was the BBC a member of the CBI during the miners’ strike?
19. Was the BBC a member of the CBI on 18th June 1984, when the BBC was editing and compiling footage for a report on the events at Orgreave?
20. Where does the BBC publish and publicise its membership of the CBI?
21. Is that information given due prominence?
22. How long has that information been made public?
23. Did the BBC reporters seeking answers from the CBI about membership figures know where to find information about the BBC’s membership?
24. When the BBC resumes membership of the CBI on September 19th, how can it be sure its impartiality on the post referendum landscape will not be tainted by membership of an organisation which will have views on that landscape, whatever it is?
25. How will the BBC rebuild trust in its integrity?
If the BBC is not promptly and comprehensively open about these issues, then it will become mired in doubt and confusion, and will itself continue to be the story.