BBC broke impartiality rules by screening Russell T Davies Bafta interview

The BBC has admitted it broke impartiality rules when broadcasting an interview with Russell T Davies at the Bafta TV Awards.

A BBC news report from the awards ceremony on May 8 contained an extract from an interview with It’s A Sin screenwriter Davies in which he was critical of the Government’s plans to sell off Channel 4 and replace the BBC licence fee.

Speaking about It’s A Sin receiving seven Bafta TV nominations, Davies told the BBC: “Completely surprised and completely thrilled and it’s so nice to see that cast being recognised tonight.

“And of course it was made on a channel that the Government’s going to sell off, while they’re also planning to get rid of the BBC licence fee – so, if you like shows like this, go and vote differently, that’s what I say.”

Virgin BAFTA TV Awards 2022 – London
Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T Davies at the Bafta TV Awards 2022 (Ian West/PA)

The report prompted a viewer to complain that Davies’ comments had not been “put into proper context” and were in breach of impartiality rules.

In its outcome published on August 4, the BBC said the remarks had been broadcast “in error”.

“The reporter and producer were on location at the awards ceremony rather than at New Broadcasting House where the material was edited together.

“The reporter’s commentary was designed to introduce a remark about Doctor Who, but a different clip was selected by mistake.

National Television Awards 2021 – London
Olly Alexander, Russell T Davies and the cast and crew of It’s A Sin (Ian West/PA)

“The strong political view it included was not balanced by any reflection of Government policy during the news channel’s coverage of the Baftas that evening, and was therefore in breach of the BBC’s requirement to show impartiality on politically controversial matters,” it said.

A review concluded that the finding was reported to the board of BBC News and discussed with the programme team concerned.

The BBC has previously said Davies, who was responsible for Doctor Who’s revival in 2005, will be back to celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary in 2023 and future series.

He appeared on the Bafta TV red carpet alongside Sex Education actor Ncuti Gatwa, who had been unveiled as the 14th Doctor.

Last month, Davies was among a cohort of 60 writers to be appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), alongside Michaela Coel and Nick Cave.