Reporting Scotland, 6.30 pm & 10.30 pm, BBC1 Scotland, 1 July, 2010; Newsnight Scotland, BBC 2 Scotland, 1 July 2010 - Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit


The Head of Legal Services for South Lanarkshire Council complained that a report in these programmes, which was introduced as “A BBC investigation into the Planning Department” of the Council was unfair to the Department and its officials.  It associated the Department with issues which in fact concerned the relationship between a member of the Council and a developer for whom the Council is an important client; it wrongly suggested that the Council had sold the developer a certain piece of land; it gave the misleading impression that the increase in the value of the land had resulted from a rezoning decision by the Council shortly after the sale; it claimed that the Council had paid the developer £5 million for a particular project, whereas the project in question was a joint initiative with Clyde Valley Housing Association; and the unfair impression created by this claim was reinforced by a comment from a Member of the Scottish Parliament.



The report did not suggest that the land in question had been purchased from the Council, and the reference to the sum of £5 million (and the comment by the MSP in connection with it) simply illustrated the undisputed point that the Council was one of the developer’s biggest clients, and carried no implication of impropriety.  However, it was inaccurate to describe the item as an investigation “into the Planning Department”, and unfair insofar as this tended to implicate the Department with the concerns about possible impropriety which the report in fact explored.  As the decision to rezone the land in question had been made by a planning inquiry (and opposed by the Council), the impression that a Council decision had led to financial benefit for the developer was also inaccurate and unfair.

Party upheld


Further action

The editorial team has been made fully aware of the need to ensure that remarks made in introducing news stories are consistent with the facts as laid out within the body of those stories.  The team was also reminded of the importance of clear story construction to avoid misleading implications being drawn as a result of the way in which factual information is presented.

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