Jonathan Dimbleby warns BBC’s unwavering commitment to impartiality can ‘get in the way of the truth’

  • Veteran broadcaster said the commitment could hinder reporting the truth
  • Dimbleby, 75, is making a programme on his father’s report from Bergen-Belsen
  • BBC has been fighting to keep its £154.50 licence fee following pressure

Jonathan Dimbleby has criticised the totemic pursuit of impartiality at the BBC, claiming it can ‘get in the way of the truth’.

The veteran broadcaster and former host of Any Questions? has hinted that the corporations commitment hinders its coverage of issues that require truth rather than neutrality, without naming any events.

The BBC has been fighting to keep its £154.50 licence fee following Boris Johnson’s victory in last year’s general election. The government has been threatening to decriminalise non-payment of the fee, the corporation’s main source of income.

Jonathan Dimbleby, 75, said the truth was most at risk of being obscured ‘when the facts are distressing or the arguments passionate’

Dimbleby, 75, made the comments during filming for an ITV series, which will see him retrace the footsteps of his father, Richard, who was one of the first journalists to report out of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp in 1945.

‘I sometimes wonder today whether the associated values of balance and impartiality, which are totemic for the BBC and other public service broadcasters, can get in the way of the truth.’

He added that this could happen ‘especially when the facts are distressing or the arguments passionate’.

In the series, reported on by the Radio Times, Dimbleby says that listening to his father’s words from the heartwrenching report brings tears to his eyes. 

His father had worked as a BBC war correspondent and was moving through northern Germany with British troops at the time.

The BBC has been fighting to keep its £154.50 licence fee after the Conservative government threatened to decriminalise non-payment

‘Several prisoner of war camps had already been liberated but, even so, he decided to take a look. He had no idea what he would find until he got there,’ he said. 

He only heard his father’s report after he had died.  

‘By that time, I was myself an adult and not much younger than he was when he sent his report back to the BBC,’ Dimbleby told the magazine.

‘It brought me to tears then, as it still does today. And that’s not just filial piety. I have heard again and again that it has had a similar effect on many, many others.’

He added that he had just returned from an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen.

‘It is a vast, desolate space, rough grass and tracks surrounded by a forest of birch trees.

‘You might, for a moment, think it was a nature reserve. And then you see the mounds that conceal the mass graves of those tens of thousands of people who perished there in the weeks before the British arrived.’

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