BBC apologises for Newsnight Help for Heroes report

Image caption Newsnight broadcast the Help for Heroes report last August

The BBC has apologised for a Newsnight report about military charity Help for Heroes that gave the false impression it was responsible for shortcomings in support offered to wounded veterans.

A BBC investigation found the report in August 2012 was misleading and unfair.

The programme has also been under fire for dropping a report into disgraced BBC DJ Jimmy Savile and wrongly linking Lord McAlpine to a sex abuse inquiry.

The apology was broadcast on radio and online, with Newsnight to follow.

The internal investigation into the report by former Bureau of Investigative Journalism chief reporter Angus Stickler found that there was no evidence to back Newsnight's claim about Help for Heroes.

In the apology, the BBC will say: "Following an investigation by its Editorial Complaints Unit, the BBC now accepts that its coverage was misleading and unfair to Help for Heroes.

"The BBC gave the impression that Help for Heroes was responsible for shortcomings in the provision of support to wounded veterans. The editorial complaints unit found no evidence to support this suggestion.

"Although it was legitimate to report the concerns of veterans, the BBC portrayed criticisms about overall support by a number of agencies as specific criticisms of Help for Heroes. This unfair impression was reinforced by our coverage of the story in other outlets.

"In addition, the Newsnight report contained interviews with two contributors which were edited in a way which misrepresented their views."

It continues: "Although a representative of Help for Heroes took part in a studio discussion which followed the Newsnight report, the response of Help for Heroes to the criticisms wasn't properly reflected.

"This contributed further to the unfair impression of Help for Heroes, for which the BBC wishes to apologise."

The BBC said it accepted the findings of the ruling, and acknowledged that it had "made some mistakes" in reporting concerns from some veterans: "That shouldn't have happened and we apologise."

"It is important to stress that the ruling has found that it is clear that at least some injured veterans and their families had been expressing criticisms of Help for Heroes and it was legitimate to report these," it added.

'Matter closed'

Help for Heroes welcomed the apology, but said the Bureau of Investigative Journalism should also apologise to all of the wounded service personnel, their families and others who support the charity through volunteering and fundraising.

It said that after allowing the journalists to visit a recovery centre and interview a family, the "broad and completely understandable concerns about the long-term care needs of the wounded were falsely and unfairly reported as criticisms of the charity".

"The Newsnight report was a complete shock to us, but an even bigger shock to the men and women we're helping to recover," co-founders Bryn and Emma Parry said in a joint statement.

"We are grateful the BBC has admitted it got the story completely wrong and has finally apologised.

Newsnight was criticised for dropping a report into Jimmy Savile's years of sex abuse. It led to an internal inquiry and the programme's editor, Peter Rippon, stepped down.

Then last November the programme linked Lord McAlpine to allegations of sex abuse. The BBC paid £185,000 in damages to him.

A new editor for the programme was announced on Thursday. Ian Katz, from the Guardian, will take up his role in September.

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