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Did we make it up?

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Peter Barron | 14:59 UK time, Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Times has run a piece today questioning whether Newsnight's report on Romanian immigrants in Britain was "a set-up". The acting Romanian ambassador complained about pictures which showed one immigrant at a makeshift camp in London's Hyde Park. "It's clear they stage-managed the whole thing... we feel they have resumed the stereotyped coverage of Romanians," she said.

Did we?

camp203.jpgHere is some evidence which we didn't include in the original report. When we first met Daniel, the subject of the film, at a Romanian church in London we simply asked him what it was like to live in London. He volunteered that he, and others, had been camping in Hyde Park. Here's the clip.

Daniel offered to show us where he had been living. These are the rushes of what we found when we got to the park. It's pretty clear there is quite a large encampment where a number of people have been living.

When other media checked out the story after our original report they discovered other campers.

The Daily Mail quoted Emerich Dinu, who said he had been camping in the park for weeks: "It is a great place to sleep. You can come here at night and there are no police or wardens to stop you."

daniel203.jpgDid we pay Daniel to make his claims and pitch his tent? No. We gave him a small facility fee, which is what we offer anyone who contributes to Newsnight. Did we mislead our audience by suggesting that Daniel is still living rough? No. The report made it clear that Daniel had subsequently found accommodation and is looking for a job.

Our report was not a set-up or a fabrication. It showed the truth of how some Romanian immigrants have been living since arriving in Britain.


  • 1.
  • At 05:30 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • vasile marchis wrote:

Some of the Romanians approached by you in making this piece seem to suggest that are parts of your report that were prestaged. It is curious how from all the Romanians you claim are sleaping rough you managed to find and interview only one! Your main character should rather return to Romania and work as there is plenty of jobs for both skilled and unskilled people at home. There is plenty of information in Romania, even TV adverts that warn Romanians about the restrictions they face in trying to get work in UK. Your documentary targets especially Romanians while overlooking reports of hundreds of people from the A8 countries who still sleep rough on the streets of London.
I think that the Romanian ambassador is right in claiming that the British Press is trying hard to revive stereotypes about Romania and its people. I have yet to watch a report made on the contribution Romanian people make to British society. And there are thousands of examples to choose from.

  • 2.
  • At 05:32 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Andrew Briggs wrote:

How sad that 2 one time pillars of the establishment - the Times and the BBC - should be involved in tabloid bickering. Get on with reporting the news the pair of you.

Secondly you shouldn't be surprised that your word is no longer trusted - out here in the real world very little of the media's output is taken at face value mainly because of the shamelss lack of integrity shown by many of the individuals involved in the industry.

  • 3.
  • At 06:51 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Oliver Kiss wrote:

It think it is utterly sad and revolting that after The Sun came out with some disgraceful stories about Romanians, now mainstream British media is catching up with the same kind of reports.
On the other hand giving someone a so-called "facility fee" makes the person tell you what you want to hear. I don't know of any journalism standard that allows such a measure.

Andrew Briggs,

So when the editors attempt to defend themselves it's called bickering? I thought it was called self-defence.

This blog isn't for reporting the news, it's for doing exactly what the article did.

  • 5.
  • At 07:37 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • dewi williams wrote:

Please explain the difference between "paying" and a "facility fee". That sounds exceptionally weasel-worded to me.

  • 6.
  • At 10:37 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Jim-UK wrote:

The problem you have is less and less people trust the BBC. In the past such a suggestion would have been laughed at, not any more.

  • 7.
  • At 08:40 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Christian wrote:

All British tabloids were announced early in December how many Romanians will invade The Queen territories. Now, after a long waiting period of time (all Romanians emigrants are already in Italy and Spain), without any immigrant with an interesting story, BBC (in former days worldwide considered serious and reliable media player) drop into tabloid bickering.
Paying one poor guy in order to invent “news” was considered in former days unacceptable. Now is part of every day business in BBC. Incredible. Hundreds of Romanians and Bulgarians are living in two tents. Bravo. I believe we could found thousands of British citizens are living in boxes in UK. In any country are homeless people are street people living like this one. Taking in focus one and generalizing to hundreds and thousands is unethical. And I could not believe that after so many years when hundred millions citizens of the former Eastern block waited BBC news for a reliable information point now BBC is transforming into BBBC (Bluffest British Broadcasting Corporation). I am so sorry about this….

I live in Bucharest and I heard this piece of news with interest. I really wanted to see some professionals at work and not some amateurish, scandal insight. I was deeply disappointed.

You did try to have a neutral point of view, but depicting the beggars and the poor who came from Romania as a menace is quite low. Fabricated, who cares ?

It doesn't cover all of the Romanian stories. I don't understand what information it should provide for the British citizens. Maybe you could help me.

  • 9.
  • At 11:43 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • adele wrote:

While I sympathise with the plight of Romanians who feel discriminated against under EU rules, I don't see how it would benefit the BBC to make up a story like this.

The accusations from the Romanian embassy have not been flattering - they appear uninformed and sensationalist, and the (English-language) coverage I have read of this issue in Romanian media has been laughably biased. If anything, that's the kind of behaviour that contributes to social divisions and stereotypes, and the Romanian press and Embassy should rise above this.

  • 10.
  • At 01:22 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Dr. Daniela Sime wrote:

Mr Barron provides 'evidence' that the report wasn't fabricated, and it may be the case that the person in the story had no option but to sleep rough for a short period of time. However sad this may be, there are thousands of individuals who are homeless in Britain, see the Shelter website for the shocking numbers, so the fact that some of them happens to be Romanians shouldn't be exploited by the BBC in the way that this story did. It is very disappointing to see an institution like the BBC adopt the same discriminatory attitude towards the new European groups as the tabloid press, inciting to racial hatred and promoting false stereotypes of the new migrants. Romania is one of the countries that has a very bad general image, mainly generated by uninformed journalism, a typical easy target for the lazy journalists looking for sensationalist news. As the new migrant groups have no representation in the political structures, and they are white groups, it is very easy to target them and promote the discriminatory views that wouldn't be allowed anymore against the other ethnic minorities. There is never a story on new migrants who have integrated successfully and contribute to the economy in tax and through their skills, despite limited and humiliating discriminatory rights to benefit from their contributions. Willing to work is presented as a crime and these people demonised, when millions of the British citizens refuse to work on prefer to live on benefits funded by the migrant people's taxes, as well. It is a shame that the BBC uses speculative stories to damage the Eastern Europeans. Rather than choosing to inform the public opinion and present an accurate picture of the migrants' contribution to the economy, the BBC chooses to promote the negativity towards new migrants started by the ignorance or maliciousness of the tabloid press. A phrase in your story acknowledged that many of the migrants are doctors, engineers, teachers etc. - it might be a good starting point to run stories on people who have integrated in the community, to help British people understand that migration is a natural phenomenon and the new migrants are not on threat to any of the British values. There are around 6 million Britons currently living abroad, there is a risk that reactions showed by the British media to the migrants to Britain may soon affect negatively how British people are received in other countries. Many live in countries like China (3.5 million), Spain (0.7 million), Australia (1.3 million), USA, Germany etc. and the public needs to be made aware of the fact that migration is a natural modern phenomenon, not an 'abnormality' that happens only in Britain. Migrant workers contribute billions to the economy, and research shows that they are mostly unlikely to claim benefits, use the local services or commit crimes. They also contribute to fund a culture of benefits that discourages young people to stay in education and seek employment. Maybe the Britons could learn from the migrants' high level of education and work attitude? The BBC needs to reflect on their role in educating and correctly informing the masses on such sensitive issues, rather than follow the uninformed, narrow-minded and politically-motivated attitude of the tabloid press. Thank you.

  • 11.
  • At 06:12 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • James Tervit wrote:

Well said andrew, why did they feel a need to defend it in this way ?

If you could concentrate on the factual nature of originality then you wouldnt be scraping for out of date news documentary.

Where is the Value For Money, the BBC used to produce great stuff, what happened.

  • 12.
  • At 06:31 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Marcus wrote:

This isn't tabloid bickering. A broadsheet suggests that a peice the BBC did is fabricated and the BBC proved that it wasn't. That is not 'bickering'

  • 13.
  • At 10:10 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Mark Bell wrote:

Ahhh, the poor sleeping rough in London's parks...quite takes me back to Victoria's reign.

  • 14.
  • At 09:24 AM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Golam Murtaza wrote:

Er, Andrew, all the BBC has done here has been to respond to a very serious accusation of 'making up' news. It has every right to answer this allegation, especially in this section of its website.

You then tell the BBC and The Times to 'get on with reporting the news'. The last time I checked (14 minutes ago) they still appeared to be doing that. What evidence do you have to suggest that they are not reporting the news? What news would you like them to report?

6 romanians sleeping in Hyde Park has become a major issue according to BBC and that is suspicious enough for me. Mr.BBC do I really have to pay my TV licence in order to watch something dubious?

  • 16.
  • At 02:39 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Vladimir Petre wrote:

Last Friday, on April 6, the Romanian tv channel Antena 1 aired an interview with Daniel, taken in Craiova, the Romanian city where he lives. How did he get back in Romania so fast after, as BBC quoted, Daniel found accomodation and was looking for a job, is a mystery to me.

Daniel said before camera that the BBC report was a stage-up. He said he was paid 300 pounds to act, that the BBC tv crew asked him to jump a fence 4 times to get the best shot and that the tent was set up in the park only one hour before the shooting took place.

Antena 1 also quoted BBC reporter Tim Wheewell, who said Daniel's allegations that it was a staged story are "absurd".

My opinion is that, for 300 pounds, which is average monthly income in Romania, Daniel could have said anything BBC might have asked. It's unfortunate for the BBC that he has a different version 5 days later. Maybe 600 pounds will solve this.

As a Romanian journalist, I can confirm that paying story subjects to show cameras where they sleep is not a common procedure in this country. As a matter of fact, it is regarded as being quite unapropriate.

  • 17.
  • At 02:54 AM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • Neil Loughbrough wrote:

Dear Editor,
I believe the confusion of how many people are sleeping rough is a common one.. the way the figures are compiled leads to false and misleading figures. I currently run a soup kitchen in PRESTON for those people who are rough sleeping and / or are homeless. The official figures do not tell the true story..perhaps the BBC and the Times would like to know the real truth our official figures are hiding..and yes you may quote me. Neil

  • 18.
  • At 07:59 AM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • We will not forget. wrote:

The BBC has been pretty much exposed as shills, what with the reporting of WTC7's collapse 23 minutes early, the coverage of the Iraq occupation, and the latest propaganda campaign with the sailors. Honestly, does the BBC think they can uphold their stauture under such blatent dishonesty? Well, the BBC may think so, but their constitutes do not. We are weary of the lies! We are mindful of the anomolies. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this publication's readership is dwindling. Realization follows deceit. People grow tired of being lied to. We are tired of being lied to. And we have evidence the BBC has been lying to us. We will not forget. We will not forget. We will not forget. We will not forget. We will not forget. We will not forget.

  • 19.
  • At 04:12 PM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • eu wrote:

:-) funny! As Coniac suggested, if BBC did not found anything else to present as "news" but a made-up story about few Romanians sleeping in a tent (invented or real) ... well, there are 2 options:

1. the world is just perfect and completely peaceful...just 6 Romanians in a tent could make a Headlines story!

2. BBC is lacking professionals, man!...change the channel and never look back!

Dewi (5) The point I was making on the question of payment, which could perhaps have been clearer, was - did we pay Daniel to make false claims and stage false scenes for the benefit of our story? We didn't - we offered him a facility fee just as we would with anyone who gives up their time to be interviewed and filmed for the programme.

Peter Barron

  • 21.
  • At 07:37 AM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Hagi wrote:

1. The Royal Parks, which manages Hyde Park, has also cast doubt on the report, saying that it is “very sceptical” of the idea of an encampment in Hyde Park, particularly of the size shown by Newsnight.

2. The man was payed! Called it how you want it, but it still is a "little" bribe. In his situation, for 300 quids he would've said anything your "TV-shocking-news-script" asked for.

PS: I'm fed up with the same old cliches - poverty and Romanian migrants - come visit Romania, free your mind! And oh yeah! just to add the third major cliche: gipsies are in every european country, they came in Europe from the indian regions NOT from Romania, please ask Borat about that!

  • 22.
  • At 05:35 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • John R wrote:

I wish to thank the BBC for providing this valuable public service - to wit, highlighting where to find the only affordable housing in London.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a tent to set up...

Mr. Peter Barron
It is a prime time Newsnight report, an extremely generous 13 minutes length ,about 1(+6 ?) Romanians sleeping in Hyde Park. BBC pays a facility fee and claims that is not relevant to the integrity of the report. How any form of payment is perceived by someone who finds itself in an extreme situation IT IS relevant.
Daniel had to deliver what the reporter need it. The same reporter who was clearly more interested in how close to Serpentine the tent was, in order to achieve the sensational ingredient and illustrate the Police’s failure rather than expressing a natural ,caring attitude towards an unfortunate human being.
That can be easily understood given the fact that he used to be a war reporter rather than a Hyde Park tent reporter.
There is no secret conspiracy against the Romanians. Emigrants are an easy target and a report about them always attracts reasonably high audience. Job done.
However Mr.Peter Barron and I quote you : ‘the point I was making on the question of payment, which could PERHAPS have been clearer ‘- Perhaps should not be in your vocabulary when you represent a corporation like BBC.

  • 24.
  • At 11:43 AM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Kor wrote:

So, the appalling huge horde of Romanian poor immigrants which all the UK mass media was expecting for is shortened so far to 6 (six) people living in a tent. Great! It looks like the real news are lesser and lesser these days :-)

And, Mr. Barron (20), what an innocent periphrasis: "facility fee"... We call it bribery, but probably we have not learned the proper UK English at school.

And a question, Mr. Barron, related with the famous BBC professional deontology: don't you think that piece of news is a typical case of "racial profiling"? What is valid for Hindoos or Muslims it is not anymore for the Orthodox Christian Romanians?

  • 25.
  • At 01:13 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Peter SIck of liars wrote:

This story WAS ataged managed because if you watch the report again you will a pile of cardboard laying on the floor and what caught my attention was that it was [bone dry] and still stiff as a board.If this had been a real camp i'm damned sure that this cardboard would have been soaking wet and very damp because [we do live in the UK the rain capital of the world . Conclusion BBC faked this report. You dispoint me BBC You have lost your integrity. Hang your head in shame. And apologise to the Romanian People.

  • 26.
  • At 04:01 PM on 13 Apr 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:

I am surprised anyone camping.

They obviously don't know how the system works.

Soon they will either:

1. embrace the system & obtain hand-outs

2. gain neccessary false indenities needed & 'bobs your uncle'

Given the bleeding hearts posts above I wonder how many have lived in the more exotic parts of London, to actually back up their dismissive 'no problem here' mantra *

* obviously still die hard desparate believers of failed multicuturalism out there, trying to shore up 'open door' policy regardless

Valuable story, real interest, thanks newsnight.


  • 27.
  • At 03:30 PM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Mr Goodwill wrote:

Mr Peter Barron,
perhaps you would like to tell your viewers how much you have paid the others that have been interviewed ?
Can we have some more details please about this so called "facility fee".
Is this "facility fee " given to all the people that are interviewed or is it offered just to "some people" ?
Who decides who receives this "facilty fee" and how does an interviewed person qualify for it ?!
Yes Mr Baron , the fact is that YOU WERE LYING IN YOUR REPORT .
At the time of filming Daniel was not living in Hyde park and there is no evidence to show that he has lived there previously.
You were aware that he was not living in Hyde Park at the time of filiming as he stated to you over the phone one hour before the iterview : "I am going to be late as I am on my way home to have a shower"
This Daniel has been paid to say that he lives in Hyde park, he has confessed all this to a romanian TV station as someone was stating on one of the posts.
Deny that Mr Barron.

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