This week, the debate continued at Westminster on the form of the referendum on whether the UK should stay as a member of the European Union. Specifically focussing on the bill to set up the vote, made as part of the manifesto from Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservatives.
As the debate continued, the issue of impartiality in broadcasting emerged, in an amendment to the bill from some backbench MPs.
An amendment from Conservative MP Bill Cash, introduced 11th June, called for a new regulator to guarantee impartiality of the coverage of the in-out referendum. According to a report from The Financial Times, any complaint made against broadcasters could prompt a correction in as little as 48 hours.
Eurosceptic MPs target BBC with plan for regulator covering EU referendum http://t.co/N2TkxWCmGx
— Mark Sweney (@marksweney) June 11, 2015
Uncertain prospects ahead
It is unclear if the government supports the amendment. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond tabled the original bill calling for a referendum. Requests for comment to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were not returned.
On the subject of the broadcasters, the BBC Trust deals with any complaints made with regard to BBC content, while Ofcom looks after commercial broadcasters like ITV, Sky and Channel 4. Ofcom’s code calls for issues to be “reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality,” according to its web site.
A spokesperson for the BBC, reached by email, said the broadcaster was committed to impartiality, set out in its Charter and its editorial guidelines.
A spokesperson for Ofcom, reached by telephone, said the regulator would not speculate on such matters.
Requests for comment to ITV, Channel 4 and Sky seeking comment were not returned.
The prospects for the amendment are uncertain. The EU referendum bill passed its second reading and concluded its Committee stage reporting this week. It is unclear when the bill as a whole is due for a final vote in the Commons, but should this amendment be passed, it may likely change the scope of coverage of the vote.
Will the amendment be included? Stay tuned to find out.
What do you think? Is the amendment calling for a new regulator a good idea? Have your say in the comments section below.