Newsnight, BBC2, 26 January 2012 - Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit


On 30 August 2011 Newsnight carried a report on independent providers of advice on abortion which included evidence that the largest organisation in the field, CareConfidential, had an anti-abortion agenda.  The report quoted from what the programme-makers believed to be current versions of training manuals which described abortion as “a wickedness that grieves God’s heart” and “a most grievous sin”.  These quotations were repeated in part in the introduction to a related report in the 26 January 2012 edition.  A viewer complained of inaccuracy, resulting in unfairness to CareConfidential, in both editions, on the basis that the quotations were from versions of the manuals which were no longer in use.



Before the 30 August broadcast the quotations in question were put in writing to the CEO of CareConfidential, together with an enquiry as to whether the manuals “Called to Care” and “The Journey” were still in use.  He confirmed that they were, and said nothing to indicate that the quotations were from versions of the manuals which had been superseded (emphasising, instead, that it was “of paramount importance” that the training material be revised).  In these circumstances, the programme-makers were entitled to proceed on the understanding that the quotations were included in current training material.  Following the broadcast, however, CareConfidential contacted Newsnight to explain that the versions of the manuals which included the quoted material were no longer in use, and this explanation was reported (without comment) in the 31 August edition.  As the programme-makers knew of no grounds for doubting CareConfidential’s explanation, it was a mistake to represent the material as current in the 26 January edition, and the complaint was upheld in relation to that broadcast.



Further action

The Editor has discussed the issues arising from this complaint with the programme production team, in particular the need to retain notes of responses to stories for reference in the event of follow-up pieces.

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