Me and Mr(s) Green
Yesterday morning on the Radio 4 Today programme (from 2hrs 25mins 15secs), the BBC aired an apology and correction for comments made 48 hours previously about Philip Green, the retail multi-millionaire, and his wife.
That is, a correction and on-air apology was issued in 48 hours.
By contrast, it took the BBC 50 days to send me a written apology for its false headlines about the government’s ‘Youth Contract’, and the BBC refused to consider an on-air correction, despite my explicit demand for this.
This does not seem fair to me, so I have complained again to the BBC:
I am writing to complain about the inequitable treatment I have received from the BBC in respect of my complaint, in comparison to the treatment afforded to another, higher profile complaint.
The facts are these.
1) On 28th November 2011 I made a formal complaint to the BBC about its incorrect news bulletin of Friday November 26th 2011. This concerned the launch of the government’s ‘Youth Contract’.
I received a formal letter of apology on 19th January 2012 (your ref: CAS 1162493-MG3CQ7), in which you accepted that the information provided was incorrect, and should not have been given.
I had suggested in my letter of complaint that, by way of redress, a correction should be made on the same programme during which the incorrect news information had been delivered, namely the Stephen Nolan show. No mention of this was made in your letter of apology, and to my knowledge no such correction has ever been made.
2) On the Today programme of Wednesday 25th April 2012, an apology and correction was provided, at around 8.25am, in respect of comments made about the tax affairs of Philip Green, the well-known retail businessman, and his wife. These comments had been made just two days previously, on the Today programme.
It is my contention that the two courses of action taken by the BBC, in respect of the two separate events set out above, together constitute an act of discrimination against myself, and potentially other complainants.
Clearly, I am not in a position to know whether the on-air apology to Mr Green and his wife was made in response to a formal complaint, or whether there was some other reason that led the BBC to react so quickly, and in this manner.
Whatever the reasons for the BBC’s course of action, however, it seems clear that the BBC undertook a very different process of investigation and apology in the two cases.
Specifically, the reply to my letter took 50 days, with no on-air redress, whereas the BBC sought to resolve the matter with Mr Green and his wife within 48 hours, with on-air redress.
I contend that there is no valid reason for this difference in response time and mode of redress.
It is surely unacceptable to argue that Mr Green and his wife’s case merited a swifter response, with an on-air apology, simply because they have a higher public profile than I do.
Moreover, I contend that the public interest implications of the misleading ‘Youth Contract’ news headline are far greater than they are in respect of any misleading information about two people’s personal tax affairs.
I suggest that my current complaint might be resolved through the following forms of redress:
- An on-air apology and correction for the incorrect news information provided during the Radio 5 Live Stephen Nolan show of ???, to be made during a Stephen Nolan show and with an explanation as to why the apology and correction comes so long after the event;
- An explanation on the Radio 4 Today programme, at around the same time as the apology made on Weds 25th April, of the editorial decision making process and factors which led to that apology, how this differed from the complaints process followed in the case of my complaint, and what the BBC is doing to ensure that such editorial discrimination in respect of complaints and apologies does not happen again.
I look forward to hearing from you in due course. For this complaint I would want to see adherence to the time limits stipulated within the BBC’s Stage 1 complaints process.