N.B. This page relates to the BBC's coverage of terrorism and use of terrorism experts. A separate page deals with the BBC in general.
BBC Editorial Guidelines on Terrorism
We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly. Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements. The word "terrorist" itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them.
We should not adopt other people's language as our own. It is also usually inappropriate to use words like "liberate", "court martial" or "execute" in the absence of a clear judicial process. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as "bomber", "attacker", "gunman", "kidnapper", "insurgent, and "militant". Our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.
BBC TV Coverage on Terrorism
The graph on the right shows the percentage of items on terrorism returned during quarterly periods between 2000 and 2006 on the BBC compared with ITN and Channel 4. The graph apparently shows an increase in items on terrorism following attacks in New York, Madrid and London, and the Israeli-Lebanon war. It also shows a marked increase in BBC items on terrorism at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003 which is not apparent in ITN and Channel 4 coverage.
Terrorism is usually dealt with by the BBC's security correspondents, primarily Frank Gardner and Gordon Corera. Brian Rowan, has also been described as the BBC's Northern Irelend Security Correspondent, and has performed a similar role in relation to the Northern Ireland conflict.
Use of external experts
The table below shows the 20 terrorism experts who made the most appearance on BBC television between January 2000 and December 2007. 435 names from the Bulk List of terrorism experts were searched at the archives of the BBC Motion Gallery for appearances on BBC News and BBC Current Affairs programmes. Only appearances relating to terrorism were recorded.  The table is arranged according to the total number of items returned, and then alphabetically according to surname.
The table also shows the known affiliations of each expert as indicated by a mark in the columns labelled A-F. It shows that of the 20 top experts consulted by BBC television, 13 have worked in government or law enforcement, and six of the seven who have not, are affiliated to private think-tanks or private security companies. Only the Observer journalist Jason Burke has no such affiliation.
|Column A: Tenure at academic institution|
|Column B: Employee of Private Security/Intelligence firm|
|Column C: Member of government or law enforcement agency|
|Column D: Member of military or intelligence services|
|Column E: Member of private think-tanks or research institute|
|Column F: Media employee or independent journalist (not including contract work)|
|No.||Name of Expert||No. of Items||A||B||C||D||E||F|
|5||M. J. Gohel||49||×|
Remuneration of terrorism experts
Asked about the BBC’s relationship with experts and commentators on terrorism, security, and intelligence matters, BBC News Head of Editorial Compliance sent the following reply:
BBC News does not retain any experts and commentators on terrorism, security and intelligence matters on contract. We do sometimes pay a disturbance fee to contributors who make their living from selling their expertise (such as journalists, academics and members of think tanks) but many commentators do not ask for or expect any fee. Where payments are made, radio programmes, like “Today”, have a flat rate of £50. There is occasionally scope to exercise discretion, but it would be on a case by case basis. In daily Television News we have a basic disturbance fee of £50. This can be negotiable in certain circumstances, usually to an upper limit of £75. However, if we ask an interviewee to stay on set for longer periods (e.g. as a "presenter's friend") we will pay more, up to £350 for a five hour period, for example.
- BBC Editorial Guidelines, Editorial Guidelines in Full - War, Terror & Emergencies, Terror
- Any items referring to ‘terror’, ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, ‘extremism’ or ‘suicide bombing’ were treated as relating to terrorism.
- Response to Freedom of Information Request from Stephanie Harris, Head of Editorial Compliance at BBC News, 5 September 2008