BBC accused of 'talking up' Microsoft

The integrity of journalism at the BBC has been called into question after its news reports were accused of promoting Microsoft - and the computer giant’s new showpiece – Vista.

The offending reports were issued just months after the heads of each organisation met in Seattle, where they agreed to work with each other on future technology projects.

According to The Times, which reported details of the meeting in September, the agreement centred on ensuring the BBC’s iPlayer would run smoothly with Vista, Microsoft’s new OS.

An interview on the Ten O’Clock News with Bill Gates stoked fears the BBC’s impartiality was being lost even further, after critics said the Microsoft boss was given preferential treatment.

In light of the claims, John Beyer, director at Mediawatch UK, has called on the corporation’s trust to investigate.

“This is something that the trustees really have to be transparent about. It did occur to me that the BBC in its coverage of the launch of Vista seemed to be promoting it.”

Philip Davies, Tory MP and member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has also raised concerns over the impartiality of the publicly funded broadcaster.

However some of the BBC’s most high-profile correspondents have gone on record – or online – to defend the corporation’s stance – or to complain to Microsoft of “Vista-stress.”

Rory Cellan-Jones, technology reporter for the BBC told the Daily Mail: “Look at Microsoft’s operating system (OS) – it is on more than 90 per cent of the world’s computers.

As a result of the technology’s dominance, he argued it would be ‘bizarre’ not to have covered the launch of the latest OS, and the BBC has highlighted the product’s perceived flaws.

Reinforcing the idea that not everyone at Broadcasting House is on-side with Microsoft is the news provider’s business editor, Robert Peston.

“Give me back my weekend. I bought a new Windows Vista laptop – and that’s when the trouble began,” he wrote on his blog, in an open letter to Microsoft’s chief software architect Bill Gates.

His big complaint appears to be that applications and devices at the heart of his role as a BBC journalist seem, currently, incompatible with Vista.

“In order to put Vista at the centre of what I do, I would have to buy hundreds of pounds of new hardware. Which may be great news for your industry, but makes me regret never having defected to Steve Jobs. Perhaps now’s the time,” he said.

Writing about his “Vista-stress” attracted both similar and opposing accounts, from PC and Mac users alike.

One anonymous visitor to the blog even told Peston his experience should scare his employer into caution.

“The BBC should urgently reconsider their plans to align so closely with Microsoft for technology to enable digital video distribution.

“When the biggest software creator in the world can spend five years writing an operating system that has had so many problems in less than a week, there is something very wrong indeed.”

Figures from Microsoft reveal installing Vista on a home computer should take about 60 minutes, but the process took the BBC’s technology team a bit longer - 24 hours.


8th February 2007

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