Jeremy Vine broke BBC impartiality guidelines with safe cycling tweets

BBC presenter found to have been impartial on subject of low traffic neighbourhoods

Jeremy Vine petition
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jeremy Vine has been found to have breached BBC impartiality rules over his support for a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) in south west London, part of his general cycling advocacy. The ruling said that he was free to express his "personal enthusiasm" for cycling, however.

A member of the public, a campaigner against the introduction of an LTN in Chiswick, complained to the BBC that tweets posted by Jeremy Vine represented “a campaign of abuse” against a his campaigning group.

They also said that Vine was expressing a view on a controversial matter in a manner inappropriate for “a journalist who should be non biased". The complaint was judged against the BBC's guidance on the use of personal social media.

The Radio 2 presenter is known as a supporter of cycling and active travel infrastructure; earlier this month he said in an interview: "This is not a political thing – if you can create safe cycling space, you have the potential to free up thousands of miles of the transport network, and cleaning up the city, making it safer.”

However, his social media posts on LTNs were found to be in breach of impartiality rules.

The judgement from the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), dated 18 August, reads: "The introduction of an LTN was a source of sharp controversy in Chiswick at the time in question, (mirroring controversies in other localities where LTNs have been introduced), and was the kind of topic to which considerations of due impartiality applied for the BBC.  

"To the extent that Mr Vine’s twitter [sic] activity since the relevant Guidance came into effect appeared to endorse one viewpoint on that topic and controvert another, it was inconsistent with the BBC’s editorial standards as they applied to him, and this aspect of the case was upheld."

The body also said: "In relation to impartiality, the Guidance makes clear that the BBC’s standards should be observed in personal social media activity, as well as on air, by those who work in journalism and factual programming, and the topical content of Mr Vine’s programme on Radio 2 brings him within that category."

Vine had called anti-LTN campaigning groups a "source of persistent malevolence towards cyclists in my area". He has also previously criticised the "anti-cycling" attitude of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, through which he cycles to work.

While the judgement partially upheld the complaint, it also says: "For the avoidance of misunderstanding, the ECU made clear to the complainant that the finding had no bearing on any social media activity in which Mr Vine simply expressed his personal enthusiasm for cycling or called attention to its potential benefits."

The Guardian reported that two other BBC staff have been informally warned by their bosses in relation to showing support for LTNs, as they have been politically controversial. 

LTNs became widely used in lockdown by local authorities keen to reduce traffic and increase cycling, walking and other active travel, but have proved controversial. 

The BBC judgement also said: "Mr Vine had primarily been responding to posts from a Facebook group superintended by the complainant, which had been drawn to his attention by member of the group, wishing him harm and describing him in opprobrious terms.  In the ECU’s view Mr Vine was entitled to object to such personal abuse and, as he did so in terms which were not themselves abusive, his tweets were consistent with the relevant BBC Guidance in that respect."

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