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BBC Ofcom News

Patten says BBC has to be careful in conducting investigations because of political bias constraints

By Hamish Mackay |

November 14, 2011 | 2 min read

The BBC is unable to conduct investigations into some of the most important stories of the day – including phone hacking – if they could be construed as having a political bias, according to the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten.

The Guardian reports that on the eve of Leveson inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, which begins today (Monday), Patten claimed that the BBC’s hands were tied by Ofcom as well as by the ethics code of the Trust itself.

Speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference yesterday, Patten said: "As a publicly-funded broadcaster whose output is so directly intrusive, there are some areas where we ought to be particularly careful in our journalism or even decline to follow where newspapers or online journalism may properly lead.

"Despite the BBC's tradition of investigative journalism, it could not have paid for the information on MPs' expenses as the Daily Telegraph did, nor pursued the hacking story at News International as remorselessly as The Guardian campaign did.

"The hacking story inevitably coloured the debate about News Corp's bid for full ownership of BSkyB," he added. "That's not something I want to comment on as chairman of the BBC Trust."

The Leveson inquiry will begin today, and will examine issues that arose from the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World, which saw the Sunday newspaper closed by parent company News Corporation earlier this year.

Proceedings from the inquiry will be streamed live through its own website: www.levesoninquiry.org.uk.

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