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Alan Rusbridger praises BBC for 'robust, independent journalism'

The former editor of The Guardian has said the BBC can be "slow moving, intransigent and arrogant" but added that it is probably the greatest news organisation in the world.

Alan Rusbridger referred to the corporation being treated to a "daily monstering" and said it is "something of a miracle that the BBC, under such scrutiny and attack on a continuous basis, is still capable of producing robust, independent journalism".

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said there is ''no prospect'' of the BBC being abolished but he insisted last month that it must modernise - including reviewing the future of the flagship 10 o'clock news bulletin.

In his Society of Editors lecture, Mr Rusbridger, who was editor of The Guardian for 20 years, said: "I certainly feel conflicted when I think about the BBC.

"As an editor, many things about the BBC did irritate and annoy me. They had no business dabbling in some of their commercial ventures.

"The fact that they were essentially 'free' (once the licence fee had been paid) is, I can see, a complication if you're trying to build a subscription model.

"The organisation is quite often extremely bad at partnerships and collaboration. It can be slow moving, intransigent and arrogant. More concerning still, I sometimes worry about its dominance, influence and journalistic bravery.

"So I don't need convincing about the troubling aspects of the BBC."

But Mr Rusbridger added that, as a journalist and a citizen, he cannot ignore the BBC's strengths.

"In thinking about the BBC, I also see probably the greatest news organisation in the world. A newsroom of incomparable depth, range, talent and knowledge. Journalists of seriousness, huge professionalism and the highest ethical standards.

"One of the few news organisations in the world still dedicated to being based out in the world telling stories globally because so many of the stories that affect our lives today are global.

"So, as well as being very suspicious of the BBC I'm incredibly grateful for, and proud of, and trusting in, the BBC," he said.

The Government is currently conducting a review of the BBC's charter, which is due to expire in 2016.

Mr Whittingdale previously said the review would look at whether the BBC should continue to be ''all things to all people'' or have a more ''precisely targeted'' mission.

In his lecture, Mr Rusbriger added: "In whose interests - apart from politicians and other centres of power which deserve to be scrutinised - is it to have a cowed BBC? I'm actually amazed it's not more cowed."

The former national newspaper editor , who will in 2016 become chairman of the Scott Trust, the ultimate p arent of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, also spoke about the Leveson Inquiry in his lecture.

"I do think we've cleaned up our act and that Fleet Street is a better place as a result," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph