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Selling stories

Alison Ford | 12:31 UK time, Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Faye Turney reportedly received more than £100,000 from ITV and the Sun newspaper for the story of her capture and detention in Iran. The response to this, and the (temporary) permission given to her fellow crew members to sell their stories, has been vociferous.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the MoD's decision, the BBC was just as anxious as every other news organisation to hear first hand what had happened during the crew's thirteen days in captivity. The problem for us is that we don't pay for stories.

We'd been very careful during their time in captivity not to bombard the sailors' families with requests for interviews and to try to respect their privacy - a request which had come from them through the Ministry of Defence. We wrote to all of them asking if they would consider speaking to the BBC once their ordeal was over. And, as soon as news of the crew's imminent release was announced on Wednesday last week, many of them did.

As for the crew themselves - of course we were disappointed that a couple of them decided to sell their stories rather than speak to us. Lieutenant Felix Carman, who said 'he wasn't in it for the money' spoke to the BBC (watch the interview here) at the weekend. Now that the MoD has changed its mind and banned the others from selling their stories maybe a few more of them will talk to us too.


  • 1.
  • At 01:35 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • rod lee wrote:

Once more the media has managed to turn its own abyssmal practice of corrupt journalism into an excuse to attack, not the Sun or the other bits of the media who created the problem, but Des Brown the Minister who happened to be tangentially involved, and the Navy, who are simply not as devious as journalists.

What is needed is more openness about press stories and their aims. A start would be for all paid for reports, to prominently include details of payments made for the story.

  • 2.
  • At 02:31 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Patrick Reeve wrote:

Is nothing sacred?

Yet again people have shown themselves to be driven more by greed than duty or desire to do the 'right thing'. I am sure that all of the soldiers from the two World Wars have stories to tell but I am equally as sure that they would not dream of selling their stories, even if they were "going to be told anyway".

I am appauled at the behaviour of not only the press but also the personnel involved in this sickening display of the sort of world in which we now live.

So much for the British 'stiff upper lip'.

  • 3.
  • At 02:34 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Mahlknecht Alejandro wrote:

This was nothing but an attempt to buy the sailor's silence. "You get the money but I'll teel you what you may or not say! Nobody should know how kowards you've been!!!"
Na, gimmia' break, this young guys are no heroes, but they know how to press the government for some cash...

  • 4.
  • At 04:27 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • JG wrote:

Just down the forum from this story is the one about the Romanian's sleeping rough, where you say:

"Did we pay Daniel to make his claims and pitch his tent? No. We gave him a small facility fee"

Well, I'm sorry, but giving someone money for a story is payment in my book, no matter what form of weasel words you use to describe it.

  • 5.
  • At 05:36 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Manjit wrote:

Hang on a minute, did'nt the Sun's defence editor claim on Newsnight last night that the BBC had paid the former Sea Lord Alan West to appear on News 24. Who's telling the truth here?

I think it's good that the biggest thing about this whole affair has been a squabble about selling stories. Various commenters on these blogs have intoned about the decline of a once-great Britain, the threat of the maniac Ahmedinejad, how we should talk to Iran in the only language it understands etc.

With unerring good sense, the British public and press ignore all this self-serving claptrap from people who only want to talk up the 'war on terror', and go straight for the bottom of the barrel. Long may it be so.

  • 7.
  • At 06:37 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Weiry wrote:

So let me see if I understand this: people should GIVE the BBC news items for free so that the Beeb can then put them on TV and charge viewers for watching it through TV licence fees.

That does about sum it up, right?

The Beeb, of all organisations, griping about others "selling" news is pretty hypocritical.

I'm just glad the money went in to somebody else's pocket for once.

  • 8.
  • At 07:27 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

I am an ex-serviceman of the British Army. I fought in Iraq in 2003. I am convinced these guys do not consider themselves "heroes" in any sense of the word. No-one within the Armed Services considers themselves heroes for doing their job. I do not think they have lost any dignity or respect in selling their stories. If a company wants to pay 100,000 pounds for simply printing an experience you had, then I really believe the vast majority of people would take the money. It is my opinion however, that the Officers involved may have received a certain amount of pressure, directly or indirectly,NOT to sell their stories.

  • 9.
  • At 08:46 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • jayemm999 wrote:

Two thoughts:

The "media" print or broadcast stories to increase audience/circulation. If we [the public] didn't want them, they would be no point in the media buying them. The Public can end this "famous for 15 minutes" market by voting with it's apathy for such stories.

The "media" write and speak about "the media" as if it's everyone except me. The BBC have cameras present when telling of abusive "media" intrusion. They broadcast the telecasts of Iranian TV which fueled the interest in the first place. Stand up and by counted BBC, by standing back and not even commenting on that of which you claim to disapprove.

So typical of the BBC bias, that it desires the stories of the failures and shortcomings of our troops as displayed by these sailors, yet declines to make a programme about the heroism of our most decorated living soldier, because 'it would alienate the anti-war audience'. This was reported in the Telegraph a few days ago, and speaks volumes about the real 'balance' of the BBC.

However the BBC has no problem reporting on the valour of the Taleban our enemies in case you had forgotten. You really have your priorities wrong, not to mention the question of treason, and continue to denigrate our nation and destroy the moral of our soldiers who serve and protect us. It is the likes of your reporting that creates the situations and responses that these marines found themselves. An absolute disgrace, and you are totally without morality.

  • 11.
  • At 11:46 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • David Bennington wrote:

Alison Ford is very loyal to the BBC but why does it matter whether the BBC or a commercial organistaion was able to interview the captured sailors? Alison, we don't only listen to th BBC and often get better stories and news items elsewhere. There are those who won't, on principle, speak to the BBC and can you blame them after reading Alison's blog.

  • 12.
  • At 11:43 AM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

Too bad the brave British $ailors won't be able to $ell their stories to the tabloids, and give us an account of the terrible suffering and torture that they endured while being detained and questioned by the evil Iranian Imams. This is the story that we hear in the Amerikan press.

It would have been really cool to hear the $ailors "sing" their songs on Amerikan Idle, the latest boobtube rage here in Amerika.

  • 13.
  • At 01:12 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • A May wrote:

Being a former member of the armed forces (actively serving during the first Gulf war) I'm somewhat disappointed by the people who have sold stories. As members of the forces, they are employed to serve in war zones and should accept the associated risks. Indeed, I would argue that they were safer in Iran than they would have been in Iraq.

What they've experienced forms part of their job description, nothing more and nothing less. So why are they effectively being paid twice for doing their jobs?

  • 14.
  • At 02:05 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • ann le clere wrote:

I am British, married to a French national, living in France. It is deeply sad to see the humiliation of the armed forces in the UK - we are proud of the way they defend their country, in circumstances which are now extremely dangerous. How do you think the families of those killed in action feel about the Minister of Defence's handling of the saga concerning the released sailors and marines, captured in Iran? The present Government has lost its way in this matter, and that is lamentable. The effect is terrible for our brilliant soldiers, sailors and airmen.

  • 15.
  • At 03:40 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • davespink wrote:

"The problem for us is that we don't pay for stories."

  • 16.
  • At 05:34 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Precious wrote:

I must say this is a tough call

Yes, we may criticize these 'poor' naval officers for cashing in on their mandatory holiday in Iran

However, we must not forget these are ordinary human beings who have needs which need to be met. Be it financial

But we do have former ministers selling their stories in what is glorified as 'memoirs'.

These same people vowed to serve the British people, but at the end of their tenure choose to sell their so called articulated memoirs. Sometimes chronicled in your national newspapers.

Did we bite their heads off ? No.

David Blunkett springs to mind. And our honourable Prime Minister will follow suit at the end of his tenure.

  • 17.
  • At 09:17 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Bob Talbot wrote:

Think of the SPIN New Labour use. If Labour wanted to get a story published on the treatment in Iran what better way than to let it into the public arena and then try to stop it. The story, true or not, has had centre stage and removes the dismal failure of Labour's ability to look after our troops into the background.
Well done the LAbour Spin Doctors.

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