Two very senior voices from inside the BBC bubble - David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, and Ric Bailey, the BBC's chief political adviser - have penned a rare and important joint piece for a somewhat out-of-the-way pro-public-broadcasting media site called journalism.co.uk, headlined Impartiality and the BBC – 'broad balance' in a two-horse race. It concerns the BBC's coverage of the EU referendum.
It's a thoughtful piece, well worth reading. And it's refreshing to read:
We are never keen on the argument that being attacked by both sides shows you must be getting it right. It’s quite possible to be wrong in two different ways, so we always take such criticisms seriously. In any case, few issues only have two sides, so teetering in the middle of the proverbial see-saw is seldom the right place.
That said, after reading the piece through, what will you find to be its main message?
(Shall I save you the trouble?)
Well, get the smelling salts ready folks. Its message can be summed up like this: We think we got it about right.
(OK, you can put the smelling salts away now. False alarm!).
Yes, alas, despite all its welcome hand-wringing, it ends up being wholly and depressingly complacent, always giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt and painting the corporation in the most favourable colours.
Typically, David and Ric dismiss 'stopwatch' monitoring of BBC coverage and place their trust in the BBC's good judgement.
For them it's all down to the judgements of individual BBC editors to measure the balance equations within their particular programmes.
That, of course, doesn't answer the question of how those individual editors are to police their own editorial decisions.
Nor does it answer the question of how the BBC's coverage overall can be judged.
To be blunt, I trust stopwatches more than I trust BBC editors. I don't see why we should take on trust the BBC's claims that their editors - people like Ian Katz - are unbiased. I used my stopwatches on Newsnight during the referendum and found it was far from even-handed.
It's also characteristic of such pieces that our two brave BBC bigwigs give examples of what went right (eg. an interview with Douglas Carswell) but don't give examples of what went wrong.
So, nice try guys but it really isn't washing.