A useful indication of the lack of integrity of the BBC

Stephen Hewitt, 24 February 2003

Introduction

On 12 October 2001, the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme interviewed, as an expert commentator, a convicted criminal liar who also had known or suspected financial and personal links with the people who were the subject of the interview, without informing the audience either of his dishonesty or of reasons for believing that he was partisan.

That seems bad enough, but one might think that this is an isolated incident and, after all, everyone makes a mistake sometimes. This, however, was no mistake. The matter was considered by those at the highest levels of the BBC and the official BBC response was that there was nothing wrong with the BBC's behaviour: no correction, no apology, no intention to make sure that it did not happen again.

The reader has the opportunity to decide for himself or herself whether there is something wrong at the BBC. The complete correspondence with the BBC appears below.

Before presenting it, it is worth raising a question about a further aspect of the behaviour of those at the BBC. Are the written responses from the BBC straightforward and clear, or are they evasive and do they seek, by digressing into matters that are irrelevant, to distract attention from the fundamental points of the complaint? This question, and others like it, will be explored in a forthcoming Clarion series on the analysis of deceit.

Correspondence with the BBC

The following is the entire correspondence between the author and the BBC, listed in chronological order.

Letter from Hewitt to BBC hewitt_15oct2001.html

Reply from the BBC dated 18 October 2001: bbc_18oct2001.html

Further reply from the BBC dated 29 October 2001: bbc_29oct2001.html

Letter from Hewitt to Chairman of the Board of Governors, dated 30 November 2001 hewitt_30nov2001.html

BBC acknowledgement, dated 2 January 2002: bbc_2jan2002.html

Another BBC acknowledgement of the same letter: bbc_8jan2002.html

Yet another reply from the BBC, dated 20 February 2002: bbc_20feb2002.html

Final letter from the BBC enclosing its independent* findings about itself: bbc_11apr2002.html

"FINDING BY THE BBC GOVERNORS PROGRAMME COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE", undated and anonymous and enclosed with the letter from the BBC of 11 April 2002: bbc_enclosed_11apr2002.html

The BBC has included a modified version of this text on page 4-5 of the "Programme Complaints: Appeals to the Governors January to March 2002 Issued April 2002" which can be found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pdf/app_02_apr.pdf

Footnotes

*How do we know that the BBC can make, in a distinctly Orwellian use of the word, "independent" findings about itself? Well, because the BBC says so. With no apparent intention of irony, Sir Robert Smith, Chairman of the Governors Programme Complaints Committee, writes:
"It is important that people who make a serious complaint to BBC management, and are not happy with the response they receive, have the right to appeal to the Governors Programme Complaints Committee (GPCC) for an independent review of their complaint."
"Programme Complaints: Appeals to the Governors April to June 2002 Issued July 2002", page 1. This document can be found at : http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pdf/app_02_jun.pdf

Postscript : the BBC hides its own reports of complaints

Stephen Hewitt 30 September 2003

In the months since the above was written, the BBC has simply removed the report of this complaint, and many others, from its web site. Previously it had an archive of reports stretching back until 1998.

In the text above, there are two links to documents on the BBC web site and the BBC's action means that currently neither of them work. For anyone who would like to see the missing BBC documents, they therefore presented here:

"Programme Complaints: Appeals to the Governors January to March 2002 Issued April 2002" Copied from http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pdf/app_02_apr.pdf in February 2003

"Programme Complaints: Appeals to the Governors April to June 2002 Issued July 2002", Copied from http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pdf/app_02_jun.pdf in February 2003

In February 2003 the BBC had available on its web site every quarterly complaints bulletin and quarterly record of appeals to the governors since October 1998. This fact can be seen in this copy of the BBC's Programme Complaints Unit page preserved by Clarion:

Page copied from http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pcu_index.shtml in February 2003

Some earlier versions of this page can also be seen on the Internet Archive web site here .

Anyone trying to read that page now, however, will be confronted with a page saying "We're sorry but the page you requested is no longer available or may have been moved." (The BBC leaves the user to search around for its replacement) The replacement page turns out to be:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies/programmecomplaints/

And it currently contains only the latest two quarterly reports. Every complaint before then - that is to say, every complaint before the beginning of this year - has been swept off the BBC web site and into the Orwellian memory hole.

This new page contains the misleading statement "For earlier bulletins please see BBC annual reports or write to: The Secretary, BBC, Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA."

Contrary to what this statement implies, the BBC annual reports contain neither the Programme Complaints Bulletins, nor the reports of appeals to the governors.