The BBC didn’t tell me the truth this week.
Despite a remit, enshrined in its inception, for impartiality and, as far as is possible, honesty, the Corporation tried to deflect criticism by telling an untruth. I shy away from calling them outright liars, as they may just be very unobservant. Either way this is a devastating failure by the public service broadcaster.
I will explain what happened and you can make your own decision.
On July 20 BBC News reported the injuries sustained in prison by Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo. The BBC alleged, via its news ticker at the bottom of the screen, that Adebolajo had been “attacked”. The words “Woolwich suspect attacked” were emblazoned across the screen. Underneath was a scrolling message which said five prison officers had been suspended pending an investigation into what happened.
That’s funny I thought, “Woolwich suspect attacked”, that sounds as if the investigation has been concluded and had found against the prison officers. But the investigation had only just begun. The BBC had, in effect, pre-judged the verdict of the probe and accused the prison officers of ‘attacking’ Adebolajo.
As a journalist this annoyed me on a professional level for its sheer slapdash approach and on a personal level it offended me. I complained to the BBC and the watchdog Ofcom. I am still awaiting a response from Ofcom, but the BBC got back to me this week.
Their response, signed off by a Richard Carey, of the BBC’s complaints department, read: “Dear Mr Christian
“Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC News broadcast on 20 July.
“I understand that you were offended by the wording on the news ticker regarding the injuries received by Michael Adebolajo.
“Having reviewed the broadcast, I can confirm that the words ‘Woolwich suspect attacked’ did not appear onscreen (my bold and italics).
“What did appear on the scrolling news bar was the following:
“’Five prison officers are suspended over allegations that a Woolwich murder suspect was injured while being restrained’. This was not in any way libelling the officers involved in the incident but merely reporting the facts as they were known at the time.
“Again, I appreciate that you feel strongly about this matter and to that end I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your concerns on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers.
“The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
“Thank you once again for taking the trouble to share your views with us.
Here is the original screenshot of the letter:
What I find incredible about the response is that I’d taken a picture of the news ticker, which clearly reads: “Woolwich suspect attacked”. So, was the BBC lying or unobservant?
This is yet another nail in the Corporation’s coffin as far as I’m concerned. This is an organisation of increasingly left-wing biased political output, which is now found to be either dishonest or incompetent. Those concerns are even more acute when you consider the Government forcibly make people subsidise it under the threat of court action.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has frequently accused the Corporation of bias over apparent criticism of the Government’s attempts cut the welfare bill. And the BBC was also accused last week of attacking the findings of one of its most respected journalists, John Humphrys. Humphrys’ mistake was to make an accurate documentary about the scale of the problem, praising Duncan Smith as “thoughtful” and “intelligent” and suggesting the welfare system is in crisis. And here in lies the rub, the BBC is just as addicted to states handouts as welfare spongers are, so it is in its interests to maintain Government spending.
The BBC is incapable of being impartial and of telling the truth, it is time to axe it, once it has corrected the Woolwich “oversight” and issued a grovelling apology to the prison officers and the viewers it has let down.