European Scrutiny CommitteeLetter from Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust to the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee (ESI 27)

Thank you for your letter of 11 September, inviting me to appear before your Committee in connection with its review of media coverage of the EU scrutiny process.

As explained in earlier correspondence, I do not think my appearance at an evidence session would add materially to the Committee’s work. So I should prefer to decline this invitation.

The Trust has no role in day-to-day operational or editorial decisions, such as the level of coverage to afford to any particular area. Hence the fact that senior staff from the Executive side of the BBC appeared at an earlier stage to give evidence about covering Parliament’s scrutiny of EU legislation. While the Trust has a general duty to do all it can to ensure the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC it is not and should not be involved in decisions such as which programmes to broadcast. As to the Prebble review to which you refer, the subject of EU coverage formed only a small part of a wide-ranging review of breadth of opinion; we have asked the BBC to report back on issues raised; and I have nothing to add to the Trust’s published conclusions for now.

Of course from time to time I am asked about European coverage in the course of appearances before the CMS Committee or in Parliamentary groups of peers and MPs interested in BBC issues. When that happens, I respond by reference to the Trust’s responsibilities in this area. But I have never taken a view on specific questions about media coverage of the EU scrutiny process, nor would I expect to do so.

For these reasons, I hope you will understand my preference to decline your invitation. But, of course, my offer remains of an informal briefing from the Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards if that would be helpful to the Committee.

25 September 2013

Prepared 28th November 2013