BBC Complaints: “no criminal charges have been brought against Dr Ahsan”; “We will not correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it.”

My initial (stage 1a) complaint is here. BBC Complaints’ stage 1a response and my stage 1b complaint are here. Subsequent correspondence with the BBC is as follows:

I presented a summary of my concerns regarding Saving Syria’s Children to Jeremy Corbyn MP on 16 December 2015.  See also this presentation for Frome Stop War.


From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk
Sent: 27 August 2015 15:08:06
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for taking the time to contact us again and please accept our apologies for the delay in responding. We have noted your points and are sorry to learn you were not satisfied with our earlier response.

Our previous reply set out why we believe Dr Ahsan was a suitable presenter for The Truth About Fat and we have nothing to add to that response.

With regard to the additional point you raise about the publication of photographs on Facebook – we note that no criminal charges have been brought against Dr Ahsan in relation to this, and no judgments issued against her. Any such proceedings would of course be taken into account when considering a presenter’s suitability for a role. We do not believe that Dr Ahsan’s role as a presenter breaks any of our guidelines on Impartiality or Conflicts of Interest and there are no grounds to exclude her from presenting our programmes.

Your concerns relating to Panorama: Saving Syria’s Children have previously been considered by the BBC Trust and will not be revisited here.

We therefore do not believe that your further complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it.

If you are dissatisfied with this decision you can appeal to the BBC Trust, the body which represents licence fee payers. The Trust has asked that we should explain to complainants that the BBC’s Royal Charter draws a clear distinction between the role of the Trust – which determines the overall scope of the BBC’s services and sets its standards – and that of the BBC Executive – which runs the Corporation and decides what to broadcast and publish.

The Trust does not entertain every appeal submitted to it. It will normally hear appeals about the Executive’s decisions only if a complainant can show that they involved a potential breach of the BBC’s published standards, or that an operational decision has raised significant issues of general importance. The Trust is the final arbiter of which appeals it should consider. For the full information about the BBC Trust’s appeals procedures please visit:

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

If you wish to submit an appeal you must write within 20 working days of receiving this reply, explaining why you wish to appeal. You can contact the BBC Trust at 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ, or by emailing trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk including reference number CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B.

Yours sincerely

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 at the BBC Complaints website http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints quoting any case number we provided.

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BBC clarifies appeals procedure

Previous correspondence here and here.

From:  Robert Stuart
Sent: 19 August 2015 13:15:03
To: ECUdl@bbc.co.uk (ecudl@bbc.co.uk)
Cc: TrustEditorial@bbc.co.uk (trusteditorial@bbc.co.uk); trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk (trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk)

Dear Mr Steel

Thank you for your reply and clarification.

I have now received an email from the BBC Trust (attached) advising me that they will consider my request for a final appeal on the basis of the points referenced in my email of 10 August below. It therefore appears I need take no further action, at least prior to receiving the Trust’s decision sometime before 6 October 2015.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart
https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/


From: ECUdl@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:28:42 +0000

Dear Mr Stuart

As I’d provided you with the information about appealing to the Trust on a previous occasion, I assumed that you would take it as applying in this instance.  I apologise for my incorrect assumption.  For the avoidance of doubt, I confirm that the information does apply, and that the procedure is the same as when you previously lodged an appeal.  Please take the time limit as being 20 working days from today’s date.  I should make clear, however that there’s no question of a “rush to publish [the ECU’s] final decision online without offering the ESC the opportunity to review it”.  It’s standard practice to publish a summary of the ECU’s finding (in cases where the complaint has been upheld or resolved) irrespective of whether an appeal is to be lodged, and the Editorial Standards Committee expects us to do so in a timely manner.  In the event that the Committee reaches a different finding, the publication of that finding in the relevant online bulletin would supersede the ECU finding.

Thank you for drawing our concerns about the headline to the website owners.  I note your point that any further concerns should be pursued with them.

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel

BBC Trust to consider appeal re: editorial policy and practice issues

Background here, here and here. See also correspondence herehere and here.

The Trust’s response indicates that it will consider my request for an appeal on the points of BBC editorial policy and practice raised in my review request of 16 June 2015 under the headings ‘Assessment of the BBC Complaints response’ (up to the end of the second bullet point) and ‘Further points for consideration of Editorial Complaints Unit’ (entire section), as I had requested in my email of 10 August 2015.

RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit‏

From:  Trust Editorial (TrustEditorial@bbc.co.uk)
Sent: 17 August 2015 14:08:08
To: ‘Robert Stuart’

Dear Mr Stuart

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your appeal of 10 August to the BBC Trust. [see: Response to BBC re: “defamatory” “napalm bomb” headline]

We will now consider your request for a final appeal under the BBC’s Editorial complaints procedure. In order to do this we will review your complaint and your previous correspondence with the BBC and decide whether your appeal qualifies for consideration by the Trust. We will only consider the points you raised at Stage 2 that you want the Trust to reconsider.  Therefore, unless there are exceptional circumstances, we will not consider new points at this stage. We also ask that you do not now submit any further documentation unless you consider this to be necessary for the purposes of your appeal.

The Trust’s Editorial complaints procedure explains that we will write to you with our decision within 40 working days of the receipt of your appeal (i.e. by 6 October 2015), but we are usually able to do this sooner. We will also keep you informed if for any reason we meet with delay during this process.

If we decide your appeal qualifies to be considered by the Trust, we will write explaining the process and setting out the timescale for taking your appeal. In considering whether or not an appeal qualifies for consideration, we may decide to take only part of the appeal, and consider only some of the issues raised.

If our conclusion is that your appeal, or any part of your appeal, does not qualify for consideration by the Trust, we will write and explain the reasons for that. If you disagree with our view then you may ask the Trust to review the decision by writing to us within 10 working days of the date on which you received our response.

If we decide your appeal qualifies for consideration, or if you challenge the decision of the Trust Unit not to proceed with some or all aspects of your appeal, the matter will be considered at the next monthly Editorial Standards Committee meeting. We aim to provide you with their final decision within 80 working days of our decision to accept your appeal or challenge.

The Trust Unit reports on its performance against these target response times in the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts (http://www.bbc.co.uk/annualreport/)

Full details of the BBC’s complaints procedure, including the appeal stage, can be found here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/contact_us/complaints/appeal_trust.html

Yours sincerely

Kirsty

Kirsty Clarke
Complaints Adviser

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
BBC Trust
180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ

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Response to BBC re: “defamatory” “napalm bomb” headline

This is a response to the 6 August 2015 email from the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

The ECU’s response to the below is here. The BBC Trust has also replied here.

From: Robert Stuart 

Sent: 10 August 2015 16:28
To: ECU
Cc: Trust Editorial
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit

Dear Mr Steel

Thank you for your email of 6 August (below).

It appears to me that you have neglected to offer me the opportunity to ask the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust to review the Editorial Complaints Unit’s decision.

In my 22 July response to your provisional finding I clearly stated my intention to make such a request upon receipt of the ECU’s final decision, in line with the procedure explained by Mr Tregear in a previous ECU final decision. [1] My expectation of personally receiving a copy of the ECU’s final decision was also expressed in my follow-up email of 30 July (below). On neither occasion did you inform me that the ECU would not be following the same procedure this time.

I am therefore here CCing the BBC Trust email address provided by Mr Tregear on 19 May 2014 in order to formally request that the ESC considers the points raised in my complaint of 16 June 2015 under the headings ‘Assessment of the BBC Complaints response’ (up to the end of the second bullet point) and ‘Further points for consideration of Editorial Complaints Unit’ (entire section).

In addition to forming part of my original complaint, the matters raised in these sections constitute serious issues of BBC policy (or lack thereof) and practice for the Trust to consider. I do find it remarkable that, given the gravity of these matters, the ECU should appear to be less than zealous to facilitate their consideration by the Trust. [2]

Regarding the web article you refer to, the text I provided for the site makes perfectly plain the distinction between my two separate complaints to the BBC.  I did not write the headline.  I have nonetheless relayed your concerns to the website owners, who have now amended the title of the piece.  If you have any remaining concerns regarding the headline I would naturally suggest that you pursue the matter with the site.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

“I should explain, however, that it is open to you to ask the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust to review my decision. The Trust represents the third and final stage of the BBC’s complaints process.1 Correspondence for the Committee should be addressed to Christina Roski, Complaints Advisor, BBC Trust Unit, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ or you can send an email to trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk. The Trust normally expects to receive an appeal within 20 working days of the date of this letter. It expects complainants to limit the details of their appeal to no more than one thousand words (although all previous correspondence in relation to the complaint will be forwarded to the Trust Unit as a matter of course)”

[2] My understanding of the BBC complaints procedure is that it implements the requirements in the BBC Charter for a framework for the handling of complaints in accordance with Articles 24 and 38. I also understand that complaints to the BBC play an important role in securing compliance with the Charter and Framework Agreements. Article 52 states:

Complaints to the BBC have an important role to play. The BBC’s complaints handling framework (including appeals to the Trust) is intended to provide appropriate, proportionate and cost effective methods of securing that the BBC complies with its obligations and that remedies are provided which are proportionate and related to any alleged non-compliance.

I am therefore concerned that the ECU’s rush to publish its final decision online without offering the ESC the opportunity to review it should not inhibit the BBC’s ability to secure compliance with any of its obligations which may be breached by dint of the issues of BBC policy and practice raised in my complaint.

BBC objects to “defamatory” “napalm bomb” headline

Background here, herehere and here

My response to the below is here

From: ECUdl@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit
Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2015 14:41:02 +0000

Dear Mr Stuart

The deadline for comment having passed, I’m now in a position to finalise the finding on your complaint.  Please regard it as finalised on the basis set out in my letter of 20 July.  A summary of the matter will be published on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk in due course, and I shall let you know when that happens.

Meanwhile, I must ask you to alter the headline over your copy at http://www.globalresearch.ca/fabrication-in-bbc-panorama-saving-syrias-children-substitution-of-napalm-bomb-footage/5464145.  The form of words “Fabrication in BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’: Substitution of ‘Napalm Bomb’ Footage/BBC Upholds Complaint” gives the impression that the finding in question is in some way connected with the Panorama programme and your allegations about it.  This is not only misleading but also (I am advised) defamatory.

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 30 July 2015 16:42
To: ECU
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit

Dear Mr Steel

Please could you advise me when I may expect to receive the ECU’s final report on my complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: ECUdl@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:01:19 +0000

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you.  You say in your blog: The finding does not address the points I have raised regarding the journalistic ethics of substituting images without acknowledgement or of the disturbingly vague and seemingly arbitrary categories of “taste of decency”.

That is indeed the case, because in the event those points had no bearing on the finding or the grounds for reaching it.  As I hope is apparent from the account given in the provisional finding, no ethical question was engaged by the decision to edit the item before passing it to the News Channel, and it was simply the result of oversight that the editing rendered a line of commentary inaccurate.

Yours sincerely

Fraser steel

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 22 July 2015 16:45
To: ECU
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit

Dear Mr Steel

Thank you for informing me that you propose to uphold my complaint regarding the substitution of Syria footage in respect of accuracy.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

________________________________________________________________________________________

From: ECUdl@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2015 17:05:15 +0000

Dear Mr Stuart

Please see attached. [Mr Steel’s finding, and my response, are copied here: BBC upholds complaint re: substitution of “napalm bomb” footage]

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel

Head of Editorial Complaints