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BBC can still report single-source stories say guidelines

LONDON - The BBC has said it will continue to report stories based on information from a single source, as part of a new set of guidelines published today in the wake of the Hutton Report, which called the corporation's editorial system 'defective'.

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The Neil Report, published in full today, recommends that the BBC establish a college of journalism, saying that the corporation needs a "sea change in approach" towards a system of career development for journalists, as well as promotion based on clear competence.

While the report, commissioned after the BBC was damned by Lord Hutton, says that BBC journalism must be rooted in the highest levels of accuracy and well sourced, it goes short of banning stories based on a single source. However, the new guidelines say that stories from anonymous sources should have greater editorial scrutiny within the BBC.

The Neil Report, ordered in February by then acting director-general Mark Byford, also stops short of calling for an end to the staple "two-ways", such as Andrew Gilligan's interview on the 'Today' programme in which he said that a government dossier on Iraq's military had been "sexed up" -- the claim that sparked the chain of events ending in the Hutton Report.

Along with the journalism college, the report calls for editorial lawyers to be a routine fixture in the main news areas of the BBC, and a programme of continuous learning for all staff at all levels, so that people can learn when mistakes are made.

Mark Thompson, who took up his role as director-general of the BBC yesterday, said: "The BBC does not have the public's trust as a right; it has to earn and maintain it.

"The Neil Report will enable us to do this, highlighting what we do well and what we could do better."

He said that Byford had now been asked to implement the report's recommendations in full.

Commenting on the BBC's announcement to set up a journalism training college for its staff Julie Kirkbride MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said that while lessons had clearly been learned the Conservatives were unconvinced by the plan.

"Whilst most of the measures are sensible, we remain to be convinced of the value of the proposed new college of journalism. It sounds too much like a further widening of the BBC's activities beyond its core remit, for which the licence-payer will have to pick up the bill," she said.

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