BBC stands firm on staff writing ban

The BBC has insisted that its highprofile journalists will not be allowed to write for newspapers under new editorial guidelines despite the emerging row between the corporation and The Sunday Telegraph.

The paper, which has BBC world affairs editor John Simpson and business editor Jeff Randall as columnists, has said the corporation should buy out their contracts.

The BBC said it was “in active discussions” with Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson and had proposed syndicating articles by the likes of Simpson to the weekly newspaper as an option.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Telegraph has warned that the ban on articles by BBC journalists, which comes into effect next summer, could constitute a breach of contract for which the newspaper would expect to be compensated.

Lawson told Press Gazette: “All I was pointing out was that they [Simpson and Randall] have contracts with us. If they are made to break them, then compensation is due. It’s not that I’m being vindictive. It’s just a matter of fact.”

He said the syndication proposal was “an intelligent way to resolve the matter. The initiative came from the governors. My impression is that BBC management is trying to be helpful.

But they have to follow the governors orders.”

The BBC had earlier said it would not compensate individual journalists affected by the ban, which would also include Today programme presenter John Humphrys, who writes for The Sunday Times, political editor Andrew Marr, who is a Daily Telegraph columnist, and special correspondent Fergal Keane, a columnist for The Independent.

“No staff, or regular freelance journalist whose main profile or income comes from the BBC, will be able to write newspaper or magazine columns on current affairs or other contentious issues,” the BBC said.

The new rules, which will affect around 24 journalists and presenters, anticipate criticism of the BBC from Lord Hutton in his forthcoming report on the Dr Kelly affair. Today defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan wrote an article in The Mail On Sunday on 1 June in which he said Alastair Campbell, then Downing Street communications director, had “sexed up” the dossier on Iraqi weapons.

By Wale Azeez

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