BBC: “no reason why” audience should be told footage was changed; BBC News “under no obligation” to reveal source of substituted images

Further information here. (I have not made this material available to Mr Tregear). Update 1 June 2015: Mr Tregear has responded here

From: Robert Stuart
To: Colin Tregear
Subject: RE: ECU Email (26 May)
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2015 08:53:22 +0000

Dear Mr Tregear

Thank you for your response of 26 May 2015 (attached).

You state:

“The other issues you have mentioned do not raise a potential breach of the BBC’s editorial standards”.

Please could you clarify which issues you are referring to and where I have mentioned them?

I attach my stage 1b complaint letter of 5 November 2014 and my initial complaint of 10 September 2014 (submitted via the BBC Complaints webform). These represent my only substantive communication with the BBC on this subject to date and both were solely concerned with the breach of BBC editorial guidelines represented by the substitution of footage between the 29 August 2014 Newsnight and the 30 August 2014 BBC News Channel broadcast ‘Syria Vote: One Year On’.

You continue:

“You have been given an explanation as to why the footage was changed; there is no reason why the audience should be made aware that any such editing has taken place; and BBC News is under no obligation to tell you the source of the substituted images which were broadcast.”

I find these remarks astonishing.

Thank you for your offer of advice re: lodging a complaint over the delay in responding to my stage 1b complaint, which I accept.

I shall write to you again by 16 June.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Stuart

________________________________________________________________________________________

PDF email attachment, 26 May 2015 

Telephone: 020 8743 8000  Email: ecu@bbc.co.uk
Editorial Complaints Unit

Mr R Stuart
Email: 

26 May 2015

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for your email of 26 May 2015 regarding the edition of Newsnight broadcast on 29 August 2014 and a report shown on the BBC News Channel the following day. I appreciate you have asked for more time to make a complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (“ECU”) but in light of the previous correspondence on the issue you have raised I thought it might be helpful if I set out those aspects of your complaint which might fall within the remit of the ECU.

The only element of your complaint which it appears the ECU can investigate is whether the decision to edit the report by Laura Kuenssberg for broadcast on the BBC News Channel created a materially inaccurate and misleading impression. As you know, Ms Kuenssberg said “By chance, just as MPs voted, these images of a chemical attack were shown for the first time”; the footage used on Newsnight was replaced with different images without an “August 2013” date stamp. The ECU could consider whether what was broadcast on the BBC News Channel amounted to a serious breach of the BBC’s editorial standards for Accuracy.

The other issues you have mentioned do not raise a potential breach of the BBC’s editorial standards. You have been given an explanation as to why the footage was changed; there is no reason why the audience should be made aware that any such editing has taken place; and BBC News is under no obligation to tell you the source of the substituted images which were broadcast.

It is, of course, a matter of regret that you had to wait so long for a reply at Stage 1 of the process and if you wish to lodge a complaint about the manner in which your complaint has been handled, I can advise you how to do so. I should add, however, that it is the view of the BBC Trust that the amount of time to handle a complaint is not necessarily a relevant consideration is deciding whether a complainant should be given more time to escalate a complaint to the next stage. It said complainants and the BBC should be put on an equal footing but it did not mean a ‘tit-for-tat’ approach in adhering to publicised deadlines. I would therefore point out the terms set out in the BBC’s Complaints Framework[1]:

4.3 You must contact the ECU within 20 working days of the date on which you received the response at Stage 1b. If you write after that time, please explain in your letter why your complaint is late. Exceptionally, the ECU may still decide to consider your complaint, if it decides there was a good reason for the delay. If the ECU decides not to consider your complaint because it is late, you can ask the Trust to review that decision as outlined in paragraph 1.9 above.

I would therefore be grateful if you could let me know whether you would like the ECU to investigate your complaint in the terms set out above by 16 June.

Yours sincerely

Colin Tregear
Complaints Director

[1] http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/regulatory_framework/protocols/2014/complaints_fr_work_ed_complaints.pdf

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 26 May 2015 00:55
To: ECU
Subject: RE: BBC Complaint Reference: CAS-3313107-W4DWZ6

Dear Sir or Madam

Reference CAS-3014042-NZY8X7

I wish to escalate this complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit.

The below response from BBC Complaints is to my stage 1b complaint of 5 November 2014, to which I received a holding response on 3 December 2014 stating that it may “take longer than 20 working days” before I would receive a reply.

You will see that I received the below email on 17 May 2015, one hundred and eleven working days after 3 December 2014. BBC Complaints claims to have posted the contents to me in a letter on 11 May, however I have received no such letter.

This unconscionable delay of more than five months represents an egregious breach of the BBC Complaints Framework stipulation that “the complaints process should be quick and simple” Among repeated follow up telephone calls and web communications since February 2015, on 7 April 2015 (after 84 working days) a BBC Customer Services Adviser expressed her astonishment at the delay, stating it was “very rare”.

In light of this I feel entirely justified in asking for an extension to the 20 working day limit in which to pursue my complaint with the ECU. I request a further 10 working days from the date I received the below response, i.e I will write to you again by Monday 29 June.

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Date: Sun, 17 May 2015 15:24:32 +0100
Subject: BBC Complaint Reference: CAS-3313107-W4DWZ6

Dear Mr Stuart,

Reference CAS-3313107-W4DWZ6

Please find attached a copy of the response we posted to you on the 11 May as requested. Please also note the reference number below is in regards to the actual complaint, while the above reference is in regards to the contact from you today.

Reference CAS-3014042-NZY8X7

Thank you for contacting us.

I am sorry for the delay in responding to your complaint. We realise that our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we’re sorry that you had to wait on this occasion.

The pictures used on Newsnight on BBC TWO were more graphic and as the programme is shown after the watershed to UK audiences that is within audience expectations.

However as the version going out on the BBC News Channel is also broadcast around the world on BBC World News we have to be more careful in terms of taste and decency to our audience elsewhere in different time zones.

We would also re-iterate the point we made in our first response that the change of pictures did not change the journalistic integrity of the piece so we feel it is editorially justified and in line with BBC editorial guidelines.

We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing further to add. If you would like to take your complaint further, you can contact Stage 2 of the complaints process, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, within 20 working days, and they will carry out an independent investigation. You can email them at: ecu@bbc.co.uk , or alternatively write to them at the following address:

Editorial Complaints Unit
Broadcast Centre
BC2 B4
201 Wood Lane
London
W12 7TP

Should you choose to escalate your complaint we would ask that you include the reference number provided above in your correspondence.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind regards,

BBC Complaints team

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

Please note: this email is sent from an unmonitored address so please don’t reply. If necessary please contact us through our webform (please include your case reference number).

________________________________________________________________________________________

3 December 2014

(by post)

Dear Mr Stuart

Your Reference: CAS-3014042-NZY8X7

Thank you for taking time to contact us again recently. We had referred your complaint to the relevant staff and are normally able to investigate and reply to most complaints at this stage (which is stage 1b of the complaints process) within 20 working days of receipt, or around four weeks. However this is to inform you that we believe it may now take longer than 20 working days before you receive our reply.

We apologise for this and have brought the matter to the attention of the relevant staff again. The delay in answering may be due to their unavailability or other production commitments.We therefore ask you not to contact us further in the meantime. If however it does prove necessary to do so please use our webform at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints or write to us, quoting the case reference number we have provided.

We aim to use your license fee as efficiently as we can, so if you have complained about the same issues as others we will send our response to you and everyone. We may also not investigate or reply in great detail if a complaint doesn’t suggest a potential breach of BBC standards, or a significant issue of general importance. This is in line with the BBC Trust’s complaints procedures which you can read at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/governance/complaints_framework/If you don’t have access to the internet at home, you can go online at most public libraries without charge.

We appreciate your continuing patience in waiting for a response and will reply as soon as possible.

Kind regards

BBC Complaints team

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

________________________________________________________________________________________

BBC Complaints
PO Box 1922
Darlington
DL3 0UR

5 November 2014

Reference CAS-2912110-VZL1JZ

Dear Sir / Madam

I am dissatisfied with the BBC Complaints Stage 1a response of 21 October 2014 to my complaint of 10 September 2014. (Previous correspondence reproduced below).

The 29 August 2014 Newsnight report broadcast sequences from a BBC News report of 29 August 2013 accompanied by the onscreen date “August 2013”. The narration stated “by chance, just as MPs voted, these images of a chemical attack were shown for the first time” indicating that these images were shown on the evening of 29 August 2013, as the House of Commons vote on possible military intervention in Syria was taking place (in fact they were shown shortly after the 10pm close of the vote to be precise).

On 30 August 2014 another version of the same programme was broadcast on the BBC News Channel in which different images from a different event or events were shown in the corresponding section, but this time without an onscreen date or any other identifying information. This alone would appear to be a specific breach of section 3.4.12 of the BBC Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy which states “We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”

But furthermore the identical narration was used in the corresponding sections of both programmes with the result that in the 30 August 2014 broadcast BBC audiences were informed that the unidentified images were “shown for the first time” “by chance, just as MPs voted”, i.e. specifically on the evening of Thursday 29 August 2013.

If the unidentified images substituted in the 30 August 2014 broadcast were not in fact “shown for the first time” “by chance, just as MPs voted” on the evening of Thursday 29 August 2013 this would represent a self-evident breach of the BBC’s commitment to “achieving due accuracy” as set out in Section 3.1 of the Editorial Guidelines. It should be needless to say that the requirement of due accuracy must surely apply most stringently to news and current affairs programmes, where audience expectation of accuracy is at the very highest level, and most stringently of all to the BBC’s flagship current affairs television programme, Newsnight.

My intention was to submit this complaint, which, in line with section 3.2 of the BBC complaints framework is considerably under 1,000 words, via the BBC Complaints webform however find that the form restricts submissions to 1,500 characters. Please could you therefore acknowledge receipt of this complaint by email to the address above and please kindly also email your response, as well as posting it if you wish, in order to guarantee its receipt.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk (bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk)
Sent: 21 October 2014 11:26:53
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Reference CAS-2912110-VZL1JZ

Thanks for contacting us regarding the BBC News Channel. We apologise for the delay in replying. We appreciate a prompt response is desirable and we’re sorry this hasn’t been the case on this occasion.

We note you found a ‘Newsnight’ report which was shown on the News Channel differed from the actual BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ broadcast.

We appreciate your concerns. However, we do not believe that the replacement of the footage altered the nature of the report, so we do not believe this breached our editorial guidelines.

All complaints are sent to senior management and the BBC News Channel every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

Lucia Fortucci

BBC Complaints

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk (bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk)
Sent: 18 September 2014 23:07:57
To: Robert Stuart

Your Reference CAS-2912110-VZL1JZ

Thanks for recently contacting the BBC. We aim to reply to complaints within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) and do so for most of them but cannot for all. The time taken depends on the nature of your complaint, how many others we are dealing with and can also be affected by practical issues such as whether a production team is available or away on location.

This is to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant staff but that it may take longer than 10 working days to reply. We therefore ask you not to contact us further in the meantime. If it does prove necessary however, please use our webform, quoting any reference number we provided. This is an automatic email sent from an account which is not monitored so you cannot reply to this email address.

In order to use the licence fee efficiently we may not investigate every issue if it does not suggest a substantive breach of guidelines, or may send the same reply to everyone if others have complained about the same issue. You can read full details of our complaints procedures and how we consider the issues raised in feedback at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/. In the meantime we’d like to thank you for contacting us with your concerns. We appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

Kind regards,

BBC Complaints.
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk (bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk)
Sent: 10 September 2014 23:01:33
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thanks for contacting the BBC. This is an automated email confirming we have received the complaint below and submitted in this name via http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints. Please do not reply to this email since it is generated from an unmonitored address. If you believe you have received this in error please contact us using our webform at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.

We attach the text of the complaint for your records and will normally include it in our overnight report of all today’s audience reaction. This is circulated to BBC staff tomorrow (with your personal details removed) and ensures your points will reach the right people quickly. We aim normally to reply within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) depending on the nature of your complaint.

To make sure we use the licence fee efficiently we may not investigate every issue in detail, and for consistency may send the same reply if others have also complained about the same issue. For our full complaints procedures and how we consider the issues raised in feedback please read http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/

———-

YOUR COMPLAINT:

Complaint Summary: Footage changed between 2 versions of same edition

Full Complaint: In the 10.30pm BBC2 broadcast from 04:48 – 05:08 footage from the BBC Panorama special ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ (broadcast 30 September 2013) was shown accompanied by the on-screen date “August 2013″ and presenter Laura Kuenssberg’s narration “by chance, just as MPs voted, these images of a chemical attack were shown for the first time”. At 4.30am on 30 August the same edition of Newsnight was transmitted on the BBC News Channel, however from 04:44 the sequences from ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ had been substituted with footage from a different event or events, without a date stamp or any other identifying information but with the identical narration by Laura Kuenssberg. Please can you explain precisely why this change was made, why it was unacknowledged, what the source or sources of the substituted images were, whether Laura Kuenssberg’s narration which continued to inform audiences that the substituted film was “shown for the first time” “just as MPs voted” – i.e. on the evening of Thursday 29 August 2013 – was accurate and how the re-editing of the programme in this manner accords with BBC Editorial Standards?

———-

Thank you again for contacting us.

BBC Complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

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4 responses to “BBC: “no reason why” audience should be told footage was changed; BBC News “under no obligation” to reveal source of substituted images

  1. Pingback: Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ – BBC: “no reason why” audience should be told footage was changed; BBC News “under no obligation” to reveal source of substituted images | Philosophers Stone

  2. Pingback: Breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines: unacknowledged substitution of Syria footage  | Fabrication in BBC Panorama 'Saving Syria’s Children'

  3. Pingback: Continuing Saga: Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ | Philosophers Stone

  4. Pingback: Finally an admission from BBC that their Syria Aleppo footage was faked | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog

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