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Picture error

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 14:21 UK time, Friday, 16 May 2008

Last night the BBC broadcast a still which we said showed dozens of bodies lying in the waterfront of the Irrawaddy delta. We have since discovered that the picture was actually taken in Aceh, Sumatra following the tsunami of 2004. This was a mistake, and we will be correcting it on all BBC output where the still was used.

The BBC has first-hand evidence from its correspondent Natalia Antelava, who recently travelled in the delta, that there were many bodies in the water a week after the cyclone. However the picture we used yesterday to illustrate that truth was itself inaccurate. BBC News apologises for that.

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We will be reviewing our processes for checking pictures we receive.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It's not a big deal - you've apologised quickly and, quite frankly, it's not surprising things go wrong when it's so hard to report from Burma.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's nice to see mistakes being so readily admitted and corrected... It would be interesting to know how and why it happened - no need to name names or anything.

    I'm still a little unclear as to "the picture" refers to as I presume it has been left out of the video clip above. Would I be right in thinking this would be a still from a non-BBC press agency, or was it an archive BBC image wrongly resurrected?

    Could you expand a little on what "reviewing our processes" means?

  • Comment number 3.

    I think it's fine to make a mistake, so long as you correct it as you have.

    i find the use of the doll image on the home page of the website to illustrate the scale of the disaster more disturbing, at a glance it looks like a child's body.

  • Comment number 4.

    Obviously the rapid correction is welcome but it seems to me to be a case of lazy or sub-editing. It is doubly unfortunate in that in concerns Burma of all countries, as it will only strengthen the view of the junta that a major player in the western media is biased againt them. It is certainly a serious matter and it would be interesting to know how it could have happened -- no doubt the explanation will be human error but given the potential fallout. some further action is needed.

  • Comment number 5.

    On Google Earth, which uses standard satellite imagery, you can see detail down to cars and people, so why are there no detailed satellite images (can be supplied by US, Russian or European satellites) of the disaster area in Burma in the news?

  • Comment number 6.

    I spotted this one last night and emailed it in. I'm guessing I'm not the only one as this picture has been doing the rounds for a while now. All credit to the beeb for owning up straight away and doing something about it.

    I suspect that what happened was that either a viewer sent it in or someone in the newsroom got it in an email and thought: this would have a great impact on the 10 o'clock. Yes it did - but not in the way intended.

    It's an easy mistake to make. The only reason I recognised it myself was because I was sent it a few years ago purporting to be the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    I think the real problem here is something that is affecting all news outlets - i.e. using non-conventional sources. 'Send us your pictures' is all very inclusive, but you will always run the risk of this kind of thing happening because you are publishing material from unverifiable sources. Sky news found this to their cost recently when their website was deluged with photoshopped images of the London Marathon. If you stick to bona fide resources such as in-house reporters and accredited agencies, this kind of thing doesn’t happen and even if it does you have some form of redress.

    In conclusion, I’d like to say that perhaps BBC news might benefit from concentrating on the basics. You might risk seeming a little staid and boring, but perhaps on balance that’s less of a risk than losing your credibility altogether.

    I think the real problem here is something that is affecting all news outlets - i.e. using non-conventional sources. 'Send us your pictures' is all very inclusive, but you will always run the risk of this kind of thing because you are publishing material from unverifyable sources. Sky news found this to their cost recently when their website was deluged with photoshopped images of the London Marathon. If you stick to bona fide

  • Comment number 7.

    Just a bit of honesty please -did a member of your staff do this deliberately or not?
    Yes or no?

    I find it hard to believe you put up pictures without checking their details......

  • Comment number 8.

    You shouldn't be apologising as you shouldnt be showing the images in the first place. If ther was a disaster in the UK would you get away with showing bloated bodies? Would you do it? No, I suspect not.

  • Comment number 9.

    Pbarratt - sadly I think it probably is a child's body, the accompanying report describes how many bodies have been left for so long they have gone white in the sun. Whether it should be in such a prominent place depends on your point of view I guess - I think the BBC is quite right to show such a disturbing and distressing picture of the horror in Burma.

  • Comment number 10.

    What a pleasant and unusual surprise to see the BBC acknowledging a mistake considering how often you deliberately misrepresent the facts when reporting on topics such as Israel and Islam. Can it be that this is going to be the start of honest reporting from the BBC? I very much doubt it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I am appalled! I do not see how this "mistake" can happen as an accident. At best it is gross incompetence, at worst it makes the "Gilligan interview" look like a minor blunder.
    I believe in the BBC as a concept but errors like this make me question whether to just let Sky take over...

  • Comment number 12.

    Why don't any of these 'mistakes' show kittens at Christmas, or Bobby Charlton? Strange.

  • Comment number 13.

    wow, to even apologise for all the intentional BBC misrepresentations would require a book of some sort. i don't see an apology from the bbc for posting pictures of Nepalese soldier abusing Tibetan monks and labelling them as being Chinese, loving the Western media distortion and bias

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice to see the usual BBC-bashers are out to complain - it would probably be safer for the editors not to announce mistakes...

  • Comment number 15.

    'You shouldn't be apologising as you shouldnt be showing the images in the first place. If ther was a disaster in the UK would you get away with showing bloated bodies? Would you do it? No, I suspect not.' Quote

    I would like to respectably disagree with this comment as I would suspect that if there were bodies of people ( child or adult) lying in the river Cam after a disaster I would very much expect the bbc to report this.

    Back on topic, I think that it is very good that you (the BBC) can openly stand up to your mistakes without being openly pushed to do so!

  • Comment number 16.

    if you all hate the bbc so much stop using it, simple as. its the best and most unbiased reporting around, with journalistic integrity and human in charge, so yes not perfect all the time, not really how humans work - but i bet we have a greater idea of the goings on in burma than many of the burmese population. go find something worthwhile to complain about.

  • Comment number 17.

    Re Google Earth for newsontrees

    The high res pictures on google earth are taken by aircraft and can often be quite out of date.

    I don't think burma would let an aircraft take pictures especially right now!

    Redirecting satellites is not instant like in the movies either. Although I'm sure they do a lot more than we think.

    Sky News makes mistakes as well. They once used a library picture of a forest fire to illustrate a story, and referred to it as from the scene. I had seen it before and knew it was from a different fire (I think a few folk had spotted it, it's well known)
    http://www.snopes.com/photos/natural/deerfire.asp

    They replied to my email within hours and changed the pic straight away.

    Keep them on their toes!!


  • Comment number 18.

    Peter Horrocks,

    Regarding the blog:

    I accept your apologies.

    From time-to-time, mistakes are made and we all learn from our missteps.

  • Comment number 19.

    The Magic Monkey,

    the rollover text on the image stated it was a doll I believe, rather than a child's body.

  • Comment number 20.

    It is nice to see that BBC openly apologizes for any inadvertent distortions of the truth...and does its best to hide any deliberate ones.

  • Comment number 21.

    BBC stories are completed by humans and humans make human error. Correcting it and admitting it is positive.

    More worrying is the pervasive slant of all the reporting. 'Burma' military is bad, military is keeping out the aid, keeping out the aid is bad...

    (Are they keeping out the 'aid' or just hostile aid workers? Countries such as China with a non-judgemental foreign policy are allowed in)

    It feels like a campaign - to what ends I'm not sure. Do you want us to invade so you can start campaigning against the invasion?

    A mistake on a photograph doesn't concern me. But does that mistake come from the in house frenzy to put a particular message accross?

  • Comment number 22.

    The reporting by the BBC of the situation has been so far from objective that the insertion of a false picture comes as no surprise at all. Thank you to whoever outed this blatant piece of newspeak propaganda. Of course the agenda here is that the Burmese government haven't signed up to the Bush/Blair New World Order, so it's payback time, folks. Another pretext for yet another invasion, while the BBC softens up the gullible public. Anyone seen anything like this before? Bad Sadaam, naughty Taliban, uncaring Burmese generals-how about the real criminals?

  • Comment number 23.

    Like Briantist, I am curious to know how this happened - I'm glad to hear you're reviewing your processes Peter but to be honest I can't imagine what sort of process could be so poor as to allow this to happen. Unless you keep a library of generic photos of dead people? That would be a bit disturbing. Please, do tell.

    Although I would also like to echo others and applaud your rapid actions to remedy this.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear Peter,

    My name is James Whitlow Delano.
    I was one of very few photographers
    to both weather the storm and access
    the Irrawaddy River Delta in the immediate
    aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.

    I would like to share it with you and
    it may be of use to BBC.

    How might I do this.

    Warm Regards,

    James Whitlow Delano.

  • Comment number 25.

    although it is terrible that this mistake was made, the BBC have made a sincere apology and that should be applauded, I am sure that even though this picture is not a primary source, the scenes in Burma are very similar and to post 22 I would seriously question whether you are in your right mind, its all very well making snide comments about the way this country has gone to war but in my opinion every war we fight is justified, your posts always seem so negative about this country, perhaps you should go and live in Burma with the lovely caring military junta and see if they treat you as well as this country's government do

  • Comment number 26.

    "its all very well making snide comments about the way this country has gone to war but in my opinion every war we fight is justified"- from rileyman22- we have some towering intellects on this blog, don't we? But at least it saves the effort of having to think about anything, I suppose.

 

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