Better BBC business coverage requires more accountability from business

A plea for more and better business news from BBC Northern Ireland has come from the local arm of the Institute of Directors, via Twitter and their freshened up website NI Biz Talk. Judging from the BBC News website, this is long overdue. While the lobby is urging a write-in to the latest BBC public consultation about Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle, I suspect the case can be made for all local BBC platforms.

What is “business news ” anyway? Judging from their own website and others, the IoD and others are looking for greater exposure for their own network, lobbying government and good news about companies – all naturally enough. But analysis is skin deep and  “whatever you say, say nothing” prevails, usually with a smile. A general media overdependence on PR handouts is notorious.

More and better coverage requires the quid pro quo of more open access and accountability from business, which tends use the cry of ” commercial confidentiality” far too easily. Inside  knowledge of how business operates is essential.  For the BBC and all media, business reporting requires a more critical approach, taking in economic and financial strategy and more company background. The economic crisis and the cuts reminds us how interdependent we are.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London