BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Lost in translation

Richard Porter | 10:52 UK time, Monday, 3 July 2006

A message board called Vinyl Vulture had this posting a few days ago (edited slightly for length)...

BBC World logo

A few days ago there was a bomb drama in Sweden (no-one died). BBC World ran a story about it with TV footage from the Swedish news. As an eyewitness made a statement BBC voiced over a translation and I thought it didn't sound right... something to effect of him being terrified, thinking about moving to another part of town and it was scary with terrorists so close to home.
In the Swedish news, the exact same footage was shown without voice over and what he really said was something like it was a little bit unsettling because he visited a friend and they could see the drama from the window - end.

And this set off a huge debate about standards on the BBC.

I think I got to the bottom of it. In short, we made a mistake (for which we should apologise), but it's not as bad as it was made out to be. The interview with the eyewitness was sent to us in Swedish, with text of the English translation. It said...

Reporter - Are you worried?
Eyewitness - Yes, I have friends who live just above and I was there and saw the guy. I pity the man, he seems mentally ill, its nothing else.
Reporter - What will you do now?
Eyewitness - I am thinking of moving away, the terrorists have come here too it seems. I don't know, I don't think it's a terrorist, something is wrong with this society.

What we did then was to confuse the two answers - the part of the interview we used was the first answer, but the English translation we added was the second answer. So the eyewitness did talk about terrorists - we just didn't use the right bit.

The lesson for us is to find someone to listen back to these things before we put them on air.


  • 1.
  • At 12:32 PM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Matt Bradshaw wrote:

Just wanted you to pass on my thanks to Richard Porter, he very professionally and informatively took time out to respond to a complaint "see his blog Lost in Translation" for more a result i think our opinion on the vinyl vulture forum of the BBC has gone up considerably...Thanks again

  • 2.
  • At 02:37 PM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Olivier wrote:

Again, thanks to Richard Porter for a fast and frank response to the comments on the VV board. It is reassuring to know that these kinds of issues are acknowledged at a senior level and that individuals such as Richard are willing to put their head above the parapet and deal with the flak coming at them.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.