A review has been commissioned by the BBC Board into the broadcaster’s coverage of migration, including small boats crossing the English Channel, to “consider whether due impartiality is being delivered”, the corporation said.
The review will be jointly chaired by Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory based at Oxford University, and Samir Shah, chief executive of the independent television and radio production company Juniper.
It will also assess the coverage of topics such as the UK Government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda, the impact of migration on communities in the UK, and the admission of refugees from Ukraine.
The review was announced as Rishi Sunak was unable to commit to bringing migration levels down by the next general election as the Border Force rescued and brought ashore a group of people thought to be migrants.
A Border Force vessel brought about 70 people, including some children, in to Dover, Kent, on Friday after a small boat incident in the Channel.
It comes as the Prime Minister conceded he believes immigration into the UK is “too high” but would not spell out what he believes is an acceptable level as he faces pressure after dodging a Tory manifesto commitment to bring net migration down to the scale seen in 2019.
There have been a total of 7,217 small boat crossings this year – up to and including Thursday – according to the Home Office.
During a round of interviews at Hiroshima’s Seifukan tea house before attending the G7 summit, Mr Sunak said he is “crystal clear” he wants to reduce net migration.
But he said: “I’m not going to put a precise figure on it, but I do want to bring them down. The numbers are too high and we want to bring them down. Now, the numbers last year were impacted by the fact that we welcomed Ukrainian refugees to the UK. Again, that’s something I think we are proud of.”
BBC chairman Richard Sharp said of the broadcaster’s review into its coverage of migration: “Madeleine Sumption and Samir Shah are well-known for their expert understanding of the issues involved in delivering impartial coverage of migration, which is an important and often intensely contested subject.
“Their combination of evidence-based academic research and working knowledge of impartiality in broadcasting make them highly qualified to lead the thematic review into BBC migration output.
“Their findings will ensure the BBC continues to have the correct approach to producing coverage that audiences can trust.”
The review will consider all UK public service radio, television and online content, as well as social media use.
It will specifically assess News and Factual content, but will not be limited to it.
Along with the broadcaster’s content, Ms Sumption and Mr Shah will also examine expert opinion and audience research, as well as input from major stakeholders, relevant complaints and BBC staff.
The review’s work will begin “in the coming days”, the broadcaster said, and it committed to publishing the findings.