BBC: Snoozenight lawyers asleep at the wheel?

“Some basic journalistic checks were not completed and no one was sure who was giving the final sign-off on the story on the day, the report found (FT)”

I’ve been asked by countless people (OK, one) what I think of the latest Newsnight catastrophe – speechless, open mouthed, appalled, just about sums it up. Where were the BBC’s duty solicitors? We used to do investigations all the time when I was at the Beeb (and other Radio/TV stations). Job 1- find story. Job 2 (not necessarily in this order) Convince jaundiced bitter dyspeptic editor, it really was a story. Job 3 (by far the hardest) sneak it past the programme lawyers – who would pick it apart. I always joked it took six months to train (tame) an in-house prog lawyer. But in fairness they did expect you to have some facts (aka Truth) to back up the allegations;  corroboration helped, plus a quick zoom round motivation/reliability/background of witnesses was considered wise. And (most important question of all), “will the target sue?”.  Were they all asleep at the wheel on Snoozenight?

BBC Newshound

It seems these basic questions were not asked, either by the reporter, the producer, the editor, and the lawyer whose sole job it is to safeguard the broadcaster and up to a point the target.
Which reminds me – I seem to remember that when we made:“allegations of wrongdoing, iniquity or incompetence or (laid) out a strong and damaging critique of an individual or institution the presumption is that those criticised should be given a “right of reply”, that is, given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations” (BBC Editorial Guideline 6.4.25.) Well if you ‘presumed’ that, you’d be wrong. And as for that cheap stunt Schofield tried on the PM over on ITV – I hope for multiple sackings and an eyewatering Ofcom fine. Didn’t young Cameron handle it brilliantly though? – text book.




About JS

John Stonborough FCIPR specialises in media relations, providing an authoritative and discreet advocacy to corporate and private clients world-wide. He specialises in handling the hostile media and media regulation. He is known for observing "An interview is no time for an original thought." He is the great-nephew of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His working career began as a London policeman and then as a reporter for the Daily Mail, BBC Radio 4, Thames Television and Channel 4 TV. From 2001 to 2004 he was The Media Advisor to the House of Commons Commission. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is married and lives in London, England.
This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *