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
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 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.

About cerumol

Working with @TVOFFAL on feature documentary exposé of the 2013 BBC Panorama special Saving Syria's Children

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