A commitment by the BBC Executive to improve and broaden its rural affairs coverage has been welcomed by the CLA, whose members own or manage more than half the rural land in England and Wales.
Responding to recommendations in an independent review commissioned by the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive has committed to appointing a senior editor with responsibility for rural affairs, and to widening the range of relationships for rural issues coverage.
CLA Director-General Helen Woolley contributed to the BBC Trust’s review. She said:"For those living and working in the countryside, the BBC’s reporting of rural issues has been far too narrow, for far too long.
“Rural firms represent around 28 percent of firms in England and make a major contribution to the national economy, but their interests have often been passed over. Rural news must be reported with an appreciation for the complexities involved, and coverage must be improved to give a realistic picture of agriculture. Discussion with a broad range of experts is critical.
“The BBC is in a unique position to advance wider understanding of agriculture and to support efforts to tackle the urban-rural divide through more comprehensive, more informed reporting.
“We are pleased that the BBC has recognised the need to improve the organisation’s representation of rural affairs and we hope that appointing a rural affairs correspondent will be a significant step in the right direction. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with the BBC to represent the voice of owners of land and rural business across England and Wales.”
CLA Midlands Communications Manager Mike Ashton, who has previously been a member of, and chaired, BBC Local and Regional Advisory Councils added: “Like many large organisations, the BBC’s size and largely urban-based locations means that many staff do not have a true grasp of rural issues, and this often comes across on air.
“The countryside is not a playground. It is a living working environment and agriculture is its factory floor. The rural economy is complex and has its own particular needs, and reporters need to understand this and portray stories accurately.
“The appointment of a senior editor with responsibility for rural affairs is welcome and long overdue. Their first task should be to learn from some of the excellent coverage being generated by many BBC reports, especially on local radio - a resource that should be enhanced, not cut back.”
The full report Impartiality Review: BBC coverage of Rural Areas in the UK can be found here http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/our_work/rural_impartiality/rural_impartiality.pdf