Friday, 20 January 2012

When Reason Does Not Compel

Andrew Bell got back to me with this and I was not happy.

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. I am glad that you are happy with my summaries of your points of complaint and I shall proceed to investigate them.

With regard to your further points I am afraid that I am not going to be able to help. Firstly, the brief of the ECU is to investigate complaints that there have been specific breaches of editorial standards in material broadcast or published by the BBC. This means that we look into specified complaints of breaches - such as those set out in your previous correspondence to the BBC and summarised in my letter to you. Any complaint that a programme was flawed would have to be based on the identification of such a breach or breaches of standards and I am afraid that a general complaint about the editorial quality of a programme could not be considered separate from, or in addition to, those.

Secondly, whilst I appreciate that you feel the complaints which you have previously set out - and which I summarised - are only examples of a wider pattern of inaccuracy in the programme, I am afraid that I will not be able to consider any further particular points of complaint. New points of complaint would have to go, in the first instance, through the first stage of the BBC's complaints process but in any case, as you may know, there is a time limit of twenty working days from broadcast for the submission of complaints unless there are compelling reasons why this restriction should be waived. I am not aware of any in this case.

I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful. However, as I said, I will now proceed to investigate your complaint and will be in touch again in due course.

Yours sincerely
 Andrew Bell

I replied immediately:

Mr Bell, I had made it very clear from the moment that I gave those examples in the first phase that they were only a few examples out of a great many errors in the programme. I had made it clear from the very beginning that my complaint about the programme includes almost every minute and segment of it. I have not changed my position, rather I have been repeatedly(and in some cases clearly on purpose) misrepresented. You wrote a letter to confirm you understood my complaint, I expect this is entirely so that you could allow me to clarify any misunderstanding, which I have done. The procedure exists for a reason and I expect that reason is so you can correct any errors on your part, which you are now refusing to do. I confirmed that your summaries were accurate, I did not state they were complete; they leave out almost the entirety of my complaint and focus instead on what were merely examples provided in good faith, selected at random from the programme as representative of the problems with it.

Your reply now moves the goalposts and expects that I should have provided a full list of the problems within the time limits I had been set, something which I alone could not have researched to confirm in time. It can be said that the entire programme does not meet the standards for accuracy set out in the Editorial Guidelines. If that is insufficient, then please explain why I have been led on with little clarification in the full knowledge by BBC staff that time would expire and never realistically permit the full issue to be addressed.

What you have is a programme which if all the unsubstantiated or misleading claims and factual errors were removed, it would leave only the credits and a few minutes of irrelevant footage. This is serious and to my knowledge, completely unprecedented and you are telling me that the procedures set down do not account for this and nor do you see a case for exceptions here when I've told you what the examples were, you know when I first brought them up in phase one(I provided all my correspondence in my first e-mail to the ECU) and at no point did anyone tell me that only those I explicitly mentioned would be taken into consideration.

I will be advancing my complaint as far as it can go and made it clear from the beginning that unless my actual complaint is addressed either through rebuttal of the allegations, an evidence-led investigation showing my assessment of the majority of the programme's claims was mistaken or a retraction of those claims made by the programme(in full), I will not concede to technicality, poor service or poor judgement. Thank you for your time.
Mr Bell responded today and gave me the contact details of the BBC Trust so that I can appeal his decision. I have replied back to him that I fully intend to. I will post reasons for appealing later.


  1. Following with interest.I have made a complaint to BBC today concerning Nick R stating that the benefit cap only applied to fit/able for work,I complained that this was untrue as an example receivers of Carers Allowance were subject to the cap.I turned it into a general concern of the suspension of critical faculties of the BBC and their unquestioned acceptance of DWP press releases,stats etc."Government relies on the portrayal of a certain type of recipient at the very least the BBC should not enable them in that task>.I've had enough.

  2. Guardian alert-