NewsWatch, BBC News, 10 February 2012: Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit

Complaint

The programme included an item on the BBC2 series Putin, Russia and the West in which a viewer put forward the argument that the series could be perceived as not taking a dispassionate view of the Russian government because the consultant to the series, Angus Roxburgh, had previously worked as an adviser to the Kremlin.  Mr Roxburgh (a former BBC foreign correspondent) complained that he had not been given an opportunity to rebut what he regarded as an unfair and professionally damaging criticism, and that the response offered by the Series Producer, to the effect that he had had no involvement in the editing of the series, was untrue and compounded the unfairness.

 

Outcome

The presenter’s questioning and the Series Producer’s response, which was later acknowledged to have been inaccurate, gave the impression of endorsing the suggestion that Mr Roxburgh’s involvement in the project could have led to bias, and this was unfair to him.  In circumstances where criticism is directed against an organisation or a team and its members, programme-makers are entitled to rely on a contribution from the leader of the team or organisation as satisfying the requirement to provide a right of reply.  However, it is a requirement of the guidelines on accuracy that BBC output should be well-sourced, based on sound evidence and thoroughly tested, and the programme-makers should have done more to ensure that this requirement was met.

Partly upheld

 

Further action

The production team have discussed the issue at length and agreed that the way questions on air are framed must make clear that we are representing the opinion of a viewer and are not endorsing that opinion.

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