Newsreader George Alagiah banned from charity patron role

BBC says his involvement with the Fairtrade Foundation 'could undermine impartiality'

The Fairtrade Foundation has said it is disappointed by the BBC's decision to force newsreader George Alagiah to resign as its patron.

Alagiah, who presents the BBC News at Six, has been the charity's patron for the past seven years. But he wrote in its summer newsletter that his bosses at the BBC had decided holding the position was "no longer compatible with being a high-profile journalist in BBC News" and represented "a potential conflict of interest that could undermine my impartiality".

Alagiah, who is also due to present a forthcoming series about the future of food, said he was taken aback by the decision and was not aware of a single complaint to the BBC about his position at the foundation. "As BBC licence fee payers and supporters of fair trade, you will no doubt make your own judgement," he added.

He said he had been unable to persuade his bosses to change their minds, but promised to continue supporting the charity in an unofficial capacity.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "George is a news journalist and this is a charity that takes a position on food and trade and promotes those views to the public. We fully understand that the decision is a very disappointing one for the Fairtrade Foundation and for George, but the BBC has a duty to protect its reputation for impartiality."

A spokeswoman for the foundation said it was extremely disappointed by the decision. "The BBC has always been a powerful champion of public awareness about global poverty and its causes," she added.

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