European Scrutiny CommitteeLetter from the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee to Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust (ESI 26)

As you will know there has been discussion at official level regarding your giving evidence to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee as part of its scrutiny inquiry.

Part of the inquiry is a broader examination of media coverage of the process in all its forms. Oral evidence has been taken from witnesses from the BBC, Sky and ITN. The Committee has also followed with considerable interest the Trust’s recent Review “of the Breadth of Opinion Reflected in the BBC’s Output” conducted by Stuart Prebble, which included an examination of the BBC’s coverage of three topics, including the European Union.

I gather that Nicholas Kroll, Director of the Trust, emailed the Clerk of the Committee last week as follows:

“The Trust’s impartiality review was on the breadth of opinion reflected in BBC content, with coverage of the EU one of three subjects covered in more depth but forming only part of the review. The Chairman is aware that three senior members of BBC staff, all closely involved with relevant content, have already appeared as witnesses to the inquiry. He does not consider that his appearance in front of the Committee would offer anything further for Members on how the BBC manages its coverage of the scrutiny process and, as we understand it, the examination of various aspects of European scrutiny is the purpose of your inquiry.”

“The Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards, Fran O’Brien, would be very happy to offer an informal briefing on the impartiality review to the Committee chair and members. Do let me know if you would find that helpful.”

I write now to repeat the invitation to you to appear before the European Scrutiny Committee to give oral evidence in October, to take your views both on important questions about the BBC’s coverage of European business in the House of Commons and on the action to be taken by the Trust in the light of the Prebble review. I have carefully considered your comments and suggest that it is for this Committee, at the end of the day, to decide how best to gather evidence for its inquiry.

You may, of course, bring other witnesses to appear alongside you (such as the Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards) if you wish.

11 September 2013

Prepared 28th November 2013