Dear Mr Harding

As you no doubt remember from your days working on a serious newspaper, reader letters tend to fall into one of two categories: disturbed folk who want to tell you about a new conspiracy theory and, normal readers who wish to share a view about the organ of whose staff you are a member.

You and your colleagues at the BBC, more than most, are inundated with an endless supply of information. Some you have discovered for yourselves by the old-fashioned art of news journalism. Much has been fed to you by the adroit PR and marketing machines which work for governments and corporations. An unfortunate proportion derives from deranged ramblings on Twitter.

Most of your listeners, viewers and readers lack either the time, knowledge, desire or intellect to discriminate between nonsense and accurate information. It would be enormously helpful to us all, and much appreciated, if you could see your way to establish and maintain two small editorial changes.

First, could you please illuminate for us which, of the stories you broadcast and publish, have been fact-checked and tested for accuracy and which have not. To assume that a politician or businessman is telling the truth is to do a disservice to your audience.

Second, if you feel that it is important to report the views and opinions of non-qualified members of the public, please do not present these as having the same credence as those of an expert. The way you reported the scandal of the MMR vaccine is a case in point.

Quality content relies upon information which has been tested for truth and has passed that test. Because the BBC is not the Daily Mail, or Daily Telegraph, surely this should be a standard operating procedure for your news teams.

The BBC’s role – and its sole justification for the Licence Fee – is to be objective and accurate, not populist. Yours is the only news outlet where, at a time when many in commercial media have exchanged professional honesty in favour of profits, those who are interested can find the truth that is missing elsewhere.

*James Harding, Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC.