Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Final letter to the BBC Trust

Dear Sir,

I was disappointed to read the reply to my earlier letter to the BBC Trust which was dealt with by BBC Complaints . It apologises many times for the way the complaint has been handled but at no time has the BBC apologised or admitted fault for the broadcast itself. This is odd because there remain important issues which BBC Complaints have steadfastly refused to address.

I am considering resolved all the issues which have been addressed by this correspondence regardless of whether I feel they were answered satisfactorily. This is to assist the BBC Trust in focussing on the matters outstanding. It should be noted that the matters remaining have all been raised more than once in the course of this correspondence. Firstly I have a question, who were the nearly 200 “hard core deep environmentalists” referred to by Solitaire Townsend ? If that question cannot or will not be answered then an explanation is necessary for why the BBC is broadcasting unsubstantiated accusations about people it cannot identify. Resolving that question is also necessary to address my other outstanding concerns. Namely that the broadcast fell outside sections 7.9 and 7.13 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code.

I put it to you that it was incumbent on the programme makers to make some effort to identify the 200 environmentalists (either collectively or as individuals) because Sections 7.9 states "anyone whose omission could be unfair to an individual or organisation has been offered an opportunity to contribute". Unless the programme makers identified the 200 or so environmentalists the programme makers could not have offered them an opportunity to contribute. The BBC has thus far refused to address this question.

Ms Townsend’s claim that she knows the motivations of the environmentalists in question is nothing more than opinion, dressed up as fact, there would be another side which the broadcast did not consider ie the real motivations of the environmentalists. To that extent the broadcast was unfair. Ms Townsend makes the statement “I was angry because it really showed that they wanted more. They didn’t just want to prevent climate change. They wanted to somehow change people, or at very least for people to know that they had to change.” It is derived from an exchange between herself  and the presenter (from 1:50 to 3:09)it is too contrived to be considered a casual opinion that sneaked through the editing process. From that viewpoint I invite you to consider that this is more than sloppy journalism it is misleading, Ms Townsend’s words are conjecture but they are presented unchallenged as if they were much more.

Section 7.9 states “broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that: material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organization” since Ms Townsend’s contribution made the motivations of the 200 environmentalists material it is incumbent to point out that the actual views or real motivations of the 200 or so environmentalists have been omitted. Ms Townsend has not been elected to speak for them but that is what is effectively going on in your programme. Furthermore Ms Townsend’s opinion of the motivations of the people she claims to have met (but has refused to identify) was extrapolated to imply is indicative of the environmental movement as a whole. A completely unscientific and immoral way of tarring a wide group of people with the same brush.

Finally I ought to record that it is lamentable that the BBC complaints process has not ascertained sufficient facts to deal with this matter properly before now and also that the BBC complaints process has ignored a complaint that a broadcast is outside OFCOM’s rules. As you know OFCOM is a form of external governance to the BBC and it looks very poor that the BBC has not answered concerns within the ambit of OFCOM before now.

Yours Sincerely

Hengist McStone