The Catch 22 clause in the BBC’s complaints procedure

Several readers have brought to our attention instances of the BBC’s recent employment of what is known as the Expedited Complaints Procedure. According to that BBC protocol (introduced in June 2012 – see Annex B):

Expedited Complaints Procedure 1

Expedited Complaints Procedure 2In one case a correspondent has had his access to the BBC complaints system limited until September 2016 and in another case a reader has been informed by the BBC that the Expedited Complaints Procedure will be applied to his complaints in the coming two years on the basis of clauses (d) and (e) in the above protocol.

“(d) are shown on investigation to have no reasonable prospect of success; or

(e) after rejection of the complaint at an earlier stage (eg Stage 1), are persistently and repeatedly appealed unsuccessfully to the next stage (eg Stage 2).”

Of course the body which rules whether or not a complaint has a “reasonable prospect of success” and which rejects or accepts an appeal is none other than the self-regulating BBC itself.

The concept of stakeholders in an organisation they are obliged to fund by law being subjected to limitations on complaints on the basis of arbitrary decisions made by that same self-regulating organisation is surely one which is worthy of public debate ahead of the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016.

Related Articles:

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part one

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part two

Interesting insight into how the job of Trust chair is seen by BBC staff

On August 30th the BBC’s Media and Arts correspondent David Sillito reported on the appointment of Rona Fairhead to the position of chair of the BBC Trust. In his filmed report Sillito made the following statement:Sillitoe filmed

“The BBC chair is a big job. […] You are overseeing the BBC but you are also in many ways responsible for being the cheerleader, defending it when politicians have got something to say about the BBC.”

A very similar version of that statement also appeared in a written article on the BBC News website’s Entertainment and Arts page on August 31st.

“Being in charge of the BBC Trust is a “big job”, said BBC media and arts correspondent David Sillito.

“You are overseeing the BBC, but you are also in many ways responsible for being the cheerleader, defending it when politicians have got something to say about the BBC,” he added.”

Obviously the first interesting point about that statement is that Sillito appears to rule out the possibility that politicians might have something valid to say about the BBC which may in fact not merit defence on the part of the Trust’s chair.

Secondly, it is particularly remarkable that the role’s main function does not appear to enter into the BBC’s media correspondent’s understanding of the job.

The Royal Charter defines the role of the BBC Trust as follows:

“Within the BBC, there shall be a BBC Trust and an Executive Board of the BBC. These two bodies shall each play important, but different, roles within the BBC. In summary, the main roles of the Trust are in setting the overall strategic direction of the BBC ,including its priorities, and in exercising a general oversight of the work of the Executive Board. The Trust will perform these roles in the public interest, particularly the interest of licence fee payers.” [emphasis added]

The Charter further stipulates:

Role of the Trust

Guardians of the licence fee and the public interest

The Trust is the guardian of the licence fee revenue and the public interest in the BBC.

The Trust has the ultimate responsibility, subject to the provisions of this Charter, for—

(a) the BBC’s stewardship of the licence fee revenue and its other resources;

(b) upholding the public interest within the BBC, particularly the interests of licence fee payers; and

(c) securing the effective promotion of the Public Purposes.”

It would appear that one of Ms Fairhead’s first tasks may have to be to clarify to BBC staff why she is there and exactly whose interests her position is tasked with safeguarding. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion of the BBC Trust’s review of News and Current Affairs

We already know how the BBC Trust presented the results of its recent public consultation on news and current affairs to licence fee2014 news festival payers and how the BBC itself has reported the review’s findings, but how have they been presented to BBC staff?

The answer to that question comes in the form of a discussion in which BBC Trustee Richard Ayre and Director of BBC News James Harding presented the review to BBC journalists at the 2014 News Festival.

A video of that discussion can be viewed here

 

 

Who would you nominate to be the next chair of the BBC Trust?

Last week’s news that Chris Patten has resigned from his position as chair of the BBC Trust due to ill-health has of course prompted a flurry of commentary. As speculations are made regarding names of potential successors who may perhaps be on the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s list, it is notable that some commentators are calling for the opportunity to be used to ‘reboot’ the BBC Trust and return it to its intended role.BBC Trust

Writing in the Observer, Peter Preston has much to say about the process itself.

“The system of choosing a trust chair – supposed sacred guardian of BBC independence and royal chartered freedom – is ropey, going on risible. Hacked Off’s energetic Evan Harris would turn even more apoplectic if newspapers chose their own regulator that way. (What? An “open process” that submits names to Javid, who can add one of his own before sending an either/or choice to the PM, with select committee vetting thrown in: meddling fingers at every turn producing ideologically acceptable appointees for whoever happens to be in Downing Street at the time?). “

He goes on:

“The trust remains for the moment. Then let it be an actual regulator, not a part-time cheerleader. Keep retired politicians out of it. Indeed, ban political finagling completely. Make sure the trust doesn’t waddle between corporate approval and stern remonstration month after month. A new breed of BBC executive directors – such as the aforementioned Stringer – already has the expertise to hold the DG to account. The chair of the trust is not the “head of the BBC”. He or she shouldn’t be rallying to the flag every time the organisation gets stick. The next trust leader must be a regulator first and last – not the difficult mix of role-playing as heretofore.”

In the Sunday Times we find similar sentiment.

“Senior government sources say the prime minister is determined to appoint a woman as head of the BBC Trust to act as a regulator of the corporation’s activities following the Jimmy Savile affair.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the communications minister Ed Vaizey said the new chairman should behave as a watchdog rather than a “cheerleader”.

In a coded attack on the outgoing head Lord Patten, who is standing down because of ill health, senior figures said his successor must have reform of the Trust as “one of the first things in their in-box”. […]

Vaizey said the new boss would be expected to behave as a regulator and to ensure that the BBC is accountable. He added that a background working as a watchdog would be an advantage.

“The trust is meant to be an arm’s-length regulator so it’s important that … one of the qualities would be regulatory. I think that is a key skill. It’s a regulatory role,” he said.

The minister added: “The BBC Trust was set up by the last government [to perform] an Ofcom role with the BBC, not trying to be cheerleader of the BBC. That is important. The BBC Trust needs to remind people that its role is more of a regulator.” […]

A senior Whitehall source said Cameron also wants to end the “Janus-faced” role of the BBC Trust head: “The fact is that the BBC Trust has never really worked and the Savile affair exposed that.

“The chairman was out defending the BBC but was also supposed to be the one investigating the BBC’s failures.

“You can’t be both a regulator and a cheerleader. Whoever takes over will have to realise that is one of the first things in their in-box. The Trust has failed.” “

The BBC Trust, which came into being under the Royal Charter of January 1st 2007, replaced the old Board of Governors. The Trust’s website defines its role thus:

“The BBC exists to serve the public, and its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC Trust is the governing body of the BBC, and we make sure the BBC delivers that mission. […]

Our job is to get the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers.

We set the strategic objectives for the BBC.  We have challenged the BBC to:

  • increase the distinctiveness and quality of output;
  • improve the value for money provided to licence fee payers;
  • set new standards of openness and transparency; and do more to serve all audiences.

We issue a service licence to every BBC service stating what we expect it to deliver and how much it can spend. We set the BBC’s editorial guidelines and protect the BBC’s independence. We monitor performance to ensure that the BBC provides value for money while staying true to its public purposes.”

So what do readers think? Is it time for the role of the BBC Trust to be reconsidered in general? Should its new chair make getting back to the basics of its regulatory role a priority and should he or she come from within the media world or from a different background? And whilst David Cameron may think that it is time to give the job to a woman, who would you like to see as a candidate for the post? 

BBC Trust review of News and Current Affairs published

Readers may recall that last autumn the BBC Trust announced an audience consultation regarding its news and current affairs content.

The results of that consultation have now been published and can be viewed here.BBC News

“We carried out a public consultation at the end of 2013 and received over 9,000 responses from licence fee payers. We also commissioned qualitative and quantitative audience research to inform our thinking for the review. We received a number of responses from the industry and other stakeholder organisations and have spoken to a number of the other news providers in the UK. We also interviewed many of the BBC’seditors, commissioners and most senior journalists. This evidence, alongside performance monitoring and financial analysis, has given us a clear picture of the current state of the BBC’s network journalism as well as identifying areas where it can develop.”

In 2012/13 there were over 25 million licence fee payers in the UK. A sample size of 9,000 random participants in this consultation might therefore appear to many to be too small to produce a reliable “clear picture of the current state of the BBC’s network journalism”.

Background material to the review – including a statement from ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ – can be seen here.

The BBC’s own reporting on the review can be read here and a slightly different perspective can be seen here

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

Readers no doubt remember that in the summer of 2012 the BBC’s Sports department produced a profile of Israel on its dedicated Olympics webpage which claimed that Israel has no capital city whilst listing “East Jerusalem” as the capital of “Palestine”.BBC olympics

After much public outcry, changes were made to the webpage and Jerusalem was listed as Israel’s “seat of government“, with “East Jerusalem” becoming the “seat of intended government” for “Palestine” according to the BBC.

Complaints were also made regarding the amended version of the webpage and in March 2013 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published its January 2013 findings regarding appeals made (but not upheld) following those complaints (see page 34 onwards here).

A year later, in March 2014, the ESC published its January 2014 findings regarding yet another request for appeal on the same topic (see page 49 onwards here).

But the story does not end there. Via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem (who was recently featured – in one case without identification of her PSC ties as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines – in several BBC reports) writing at Electronic Intifada, we learn that two Hamas-linked anti-Israel lobbying groups are still pursuing the issue of Israel’s capital city.

“At the end of 2013, PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] and FoA [Friends of Al Aqsa] made a direct request to the BBC asking that it release these documents under a Freedom of Information request. The aim was to find out how and why the BBC Trust had made a decision that referencing Jerusalem as Israeli was not in breach of its editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, and what had influenced the Trust’s decision.PSC and Hamas

This request was rejected by the BBC, leading to last week’s appeal to the commissioner, which is the next stage in the Freedom of Information process.

In the appeal, both organizations set out the background to the request. PSC had challenged the BBC in 2012 and 2013 over reporting on its online pages and radio broadcasting, where Jerusalem was called an “Israeli city,” and no distinction was made between East Jerusalem — which is considered by the United Nations to be occupied Palestinian territory — and West Jerusalem.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign website also carries the story, claiming that:

“…East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied Palestinian territory by the UN and the international community, including the UK government. West Jerusalem is considered to be under de facto Israeli control only, but not under Israeli sovereignty.”Ismail Patel

The fact that this is a transparently political campaign being run by two Hamas-linked organisations which have no other raison d’etre than professional anti-Israel campaigning and have taken part in delegitimisation projects such as the 2010 flotilla and the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ (see here and here) is patently obvious – and predictable.

Whilst the BBC has so far not succumbed to this pressure to take a political stance from what Jeremy Bowen is unlikely to describe in future interviews to British papers as ‘full-time anti-Israeli lobbyists’, one particular section of the ESC’s two publications regarding the complaints is especially worthy of note.

In both of the above documents produced by the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee (page 39 here and page 51 here) it is stated that:

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

Yes, you read that correctly: the highest BBC body charged with ensuring the corporation’s adherence to editorial standards (including those of accuracy and impartiality) claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – aka UN GA resolution 181– has some sort of relevance or validity and based upon that gross misinterpretation, presumes to dictate that a city in which there has been a Jewish majority since the nineteenth century “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.

Despite what the members of the BBC Trust’s ESC may choose to believe, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, 181 was non-binding and in fact it was no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known (although apparently not in the higher corridors of the BBC) the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan en masse and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant.

 “Resolution 181 has no legal ramifications – that is, Resolution 181 recognized the Jewish right to statehood, but its validity as a potentially legal and binding document was never consummated. Like the proposals that preceded it, Resolution 181’s validity hinged on acceptance by both parties of the General Assembly’s recommendation.

Cambridge Professor, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice, a renowned expert on international law, clarified that from a legal standpoint, the 1947 UN Partition Resolution had no legislative character to vest territorial rights in either Jews or Arabs. In a monograph relating to one of the most complex aspects of the territorial issue, the status of Jerusalem, Judge, Sir Lauterpacht wrote that any binding force the Partition Plan would have had to arise from the principle pacta sunt servanda, [In Latin: treaties must be honored – the first principle of international law] that is, from agreement of the parties at variance to the proposed plan.”

In any case, the corpus separatum proposal had a sell-by date: the proposal was only intended to last for ten years, after which a referendum of the city’s residents was to be held to determine its status. As Sir Elihu Lauterpacht pointed out in the monograph mentioned above: [emphasis added]

“The role of the U.N. in relation to the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places is limited. In particular, the General Assembly has no power of disposition over Jerusalem and no right to lay down regulations for the Holy Places. The Security Council, of course, retains its powers under Chapter VII of the Charter in relation to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression, but these powers do not extend to the adoption of any general position regarding the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.”

Further, as Dr Dore Gold points out in his book “The Fight for Jerusalem” (p. 134): [emphasis added]

“The UN took upon itself certain commitments with respect to Jerusalem as a result of the passage of Resolution 181. It pledged “to ensure that peace and order reign in Jerusalem” and that it would “promote the security, well-being and any constructive measures of development for the residents.” It empowered the newly created UN Trusteeship Council to draft and approve a detailed statute for UN administration of the Holy City. This was a necessary legal step for the UN to assume the responsibilities of the British Mandate after its termination.

But no Jerusalem statute was adopted. On May 14, 1948, the UN General Assembly convened in a special session to determine whether to assume formal responsibility for Jerusalem as the Partition Plan had proposed. The UN determined that it would have to take action before the Mandate expired on May 15. But the UN failed to adopt any proposal giving it legal responsibility for Jerusalem that would enable it to become the effective successor to the British Mandate as the General Assembly had envisioned.”

The issue of the BBC’s stubborn refusal to list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city is one which comes up with tedious regularity on these pages and others. At least now we have gained some insight into the type of historic illiteracy which lies behind that misconstrued thinking. Perhaps fewer cosy chats between “senior BBC executives” and members of the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel lobby in the UK would help the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee to get a better grip of the historical and geographical facts.  

The bizarre basis for the BBC’s rejection of an appeal

The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee findings published on March 25th include details of its rejection of the presentation of an appeal concerning the June 14th 2013 edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. 

Readers can remind themselves of that interview on the subject of Iran with Jack Straw and Dore Gold here. During the interview Jack Straw said:

“It [Israel] has no territorial ambitions apart from stealing the land of the Palestinians…”

That assertion was not challenged or corrected by the programme’s presenter John Humphrys.

The ESC’s decision can be read on pages 104 to 111 here.

One of the more interesting aspect of that decision is the fact that the BBC’s rejection of the complaint at earlier stages and the decision not to bring the complaint to appeal is based in no small part upon the claim that Dr Dore Gold did not challenge Jack Straw’s gratuitous slur.

“He [the Complaints Director] considered [….] that Dr Gold had a reasonable opportunity to respond to the comments that had been made.”

“She [the Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser] also noted that Dr Gold had chosen not to respond to Jack Straw’s comment about land theft. She considered that overall, Trustees would be likely to conclude that Dr Gold had been given an appropriate amount of time to make the points that he wished to make.”

“However, the Committee believed that Dr Dore [sic] had made it clear, in his responses, that he did not wish to discuss Israel’s policies, although he was given opportunities to do so.”

That of course seems to suggest that according to the BBC’s perception, an Israeli giving an interview to the corporation is not only responsible for refuting any and every falsehood which might breach BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, but his or her very presence absolves the BBC from any responsibility to correct or qualify slurs which may mislead audiences. 

 

More on the uselessness of BBC complaints response targets

The same BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee report referred to in this recent post also includes the ESC’s findings regarding complaints made concerning another edition of the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme which was broadcast on November 7th 2012 – see details of that programme here.

The appeal was not upheld (see pages 24 – 29 here).  Among several interesting aspects of the committee’s decision is that fact that it seems to embrace a quaint belief that if something has been written or said by a journalist – any journalist – it must be true.

“The Committee considered that the range of submissions from the BBC demonstrated that the World Affairs Editor’s analysis was broadly representative of the media coverage at the time…”

In its findings regarding the two and a half year-long complaint concerning the ‘Today’ programme’s June 10th 2011 edition which appears before this one in the ESC report, it was noted that the stage 1A reply took over six times the acceptable defined time to reach the complainant than designated by the BBC. target

“the Stage 1A response from Audience Services took 65 working days, against the target of 10 days.” [emphasis added]

One of the people who made a complaint about the ‘Today’ programme’s  November 7th 2012 edition has informed us that:

“I made my complaint at Stage 1A on 9th November 2012 and got my first response (despite numerous phone calls and emails in the meanwhile, which were recorded and given their own BBC Complaints reference numbers) on 24th May 2013.”

In other words, the 10 day target was in that case exceeded by an incredible 186 days.

And yet the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee is not persuaded of “any shortcoming in the procedure itself“.

 

Two and a half years a BBC complainant

Earlier this month we noted a Times report on the subject of the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee’s upholding of a complaint against an edition of the ‘Today’ programme broadcast on June 10th 2011. 

The BBC Trust has now published its findings and they can be read on pages 9 – 23 here.

Beyond the substance of the complaint itself, the ESC also relates to the fact that it took a shocking two and a half years for the complaint to be resolved and documents the serial failures of the BBC’s complaints mechanism to adhere to its own standards. [all emphasis added]

“The Committee noted the detailed timeline of how the complaint had been handled which had been compiled by the Editorial Adviser. It noted in particular the following points:

*the Stage 1A response from Audience Services took 65 working days, against the target of 10 days.

*the Stage 1B response was not forthcoming until the complainant wrote to the Director of News to inquire why he had not received a reply to his letter.

* the Stage 1B response from Audience Services was received approximately 250 working days after the complainant’s submission (the target is 20-35 working days).

*the ECU sent an undated provisional finding to the complainant approximately 60 working days after he asked the ECU to investigate. This was about 20 working days later than he had been advised he could expect to receive a response (it later transpired that the finding was sent in error and had been intended for circulation internally; that provisional decision to uphold his complaint was subsequently reversed).

*three months later, on 5 March 2013, having received no further notification, the complainant wrote to the ECU to inquire about the final outcome of his complaint.

The Head of the ECU responded promptly stating that something had “gone badly amiss” with the handling of the complaint and he would respond fully within a week.

*on 19 March 2013 the Head of the ECU wrote to the complainant saying he should not have received the undated provisional finding he was sent in late 2012:

“What seems to have happened is that a draft of my provisional finding which was intended for internal consultation was sent to you in error. I should explain that the procedure, when we’re minded to uphold any aspect of a complaint, is to allow a period for the BBC Division responsible for the item complained of to make any representations, and I put the proposed finding to the Division – in this instance, News – in the form of a draft letter to the complainant. The reason for this part of the complaints procedure is that the programme-makers and their editorial management don’t have right of appeal to the BBC Trust, whereas complainants do. The consultation period is therefore their last opportunity to correct any errors on our part, or to make a case for altering the finding.”

*the Head of the ECU said that he had received representations from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and from the BBC correspondent which had caused him to change his initial view that the item had been misleading in one respect. He was now not intending to uphold the complaint.

*this substantive Stage 2 finding was issued six months after the complainant had first written to the ECU and almost two years after he had initially lodged the complaint.

* the complainant challenged the finding within the time scale he had been provided. He heard nothing, and five months later on 17 September 2013 he wrote to the ECU inquiring what had happened.

The Head of the ECU responded on 20 September 2013:

“I must apologise profusely for my long silence. An office move in July caused some disruption, and it appears that our correspondence was one of the casualties of it. I have now retrieved the papers, and am reviewing the issues and arguments afresh. I shall aim to give you a definitive ruling by the end of the month, though if circumstances arise in which further consultation with News management is required, it may take me a little longer. In that event, I shall write again to let you know the likely extent of the delay.”  

The Head of the ECU wrote to the complainant on 15 October 2013 advising that he remained of the view that the complaint should not be upheld. He again apologised for the delays which had beset the process.

The Committee noted the reasons given by Audience Services for the Stage 1 delays and by the ECU for the delays and mismanagement at Stage 2 appear to have been the result of an unfortunate series of human errors. The Committee noted the complainant had received an apology from Audience Services. The Head of the ECU had acknowledged the chapter of accidents were inexcusable and that it was an extremely poor example of complaints handling. complaints

The Committee noted this aspect of the complaint related to 19.4 of the Editorial Guidelines which requires the BBC to observe the complaints framework, including the stipulated timelines.

The Committee noted that the relevant test related to the following clause from section 19.4.2  of the Accountability guideline:

 “Complaints should be responded to in a timely manner”

The Committee said the delays at Stages 1 and 2 and the inadvertent dispatch of the provisional finding to the complainant ahead of its circulation internally were deeply regrettable. The Committee added its apology to those already made to the complainant and recorded its dismay that a complaint could be so seriously and repeatedly mishandled.

The Committee noted the complainant’s query in his submission for this appeal as to whether it was routine that complaints were treated in this way and whether in effect the procedure was fit for purpose. The Committee advised that the errors in complaint handling on this occasion were in its view unprecedented, that the complaints procedure outlines clearly how the BBC is required to deal with complaints, along with the required time scale and that this had made it possible for the BBC Trust to speedily and transparently adjudicate on the allegation. The Committee was satisfied that the problems which had beset this complaint at each stage were not the result of any shortcoming in the procedure itself.”

Ah – so that’s alright then.

Of course the many other members of the BBC’s funding public who have written to BBC Watch to inform us of unexplained delays to replies to complaints they have made – and in some cases the complete absence of any response whatsoever – might be somewhat disconcerted by the glaring complacency which enabled that final line to be written. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Times reports: BBC Trust upholds 2011 complaint against ‘Today’ programme

h/t JS

The March 15th edition of The Times included some interesting news about a two and a half year-old complaint to the BBC in an article titled “Rift grows after BBC watchdog upholds complaint over ‘biased’ report on Israel” (£). 

“The BBC Trust has upheld a complaint which alleged that a five-minute report on Radio 4’s Today programme about the Six-Day War was misleading and biased, The Times has learnt. […]

The latest complaint relates to an item which aired on the Today programme in June 2011. The report, by Kevin Connolly, one of the BBC’s Middle East correspondents, examined the legacy of the 1967 conflict between Israel and several neighbouring states.

According to the trust’s findings, which were obtained by The Times, a listener alleged that the Today report wrongly gave the impression that Israel occupied land three times its original size as a result of the war, when it had given 90 per cent of the land captured in 1967 back to Egypt. The programme also, the complainant alleged, gave a misleading impression that Israel was not willing to trade land for peace, when it had reached peace deals with Jordan and Egypt that included transfers of conquered territory.

The trust found that the Today report had been inaccurate on both points and that the complaints should be upheld.”

The broadcast concerned appears to be this one from June 10th 2011.

Kevin Connolly opens that report with the following words:

“They are not borders, but lines of ceasefire – although they didn’t sound like it last weekend at Majdal Shams when Israeli soldiers used live ammunition to stop protesters trying to cross the line of disengagement with Syria.”

Readers may perhaps remember that the day before that report on the ‘Today’ programme, BBC Radio 4 had also broadcast a highly problematic item by Connolly on ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ pertaining to those “protesters” at Majdal Shams.

Interestingly, The Times also reports that: 

“BBC News had strongly defended the report during an internal complaints process that dragged on for two and a half years.”

It goes on to say:

“Both BBC News and Mr Connolly declined to comment yesterday, but the publication of the trust’s findings on March 25 is likely to lead to outrage among the corporation’s journalists.

The controversial findings against Mr Bowen in 2009 still rankle inside the corporation. This month, Mr Bowen told The Independent newspaper that the trust’s ruling, after complaints by Israeli lobbyists, was a “mistake” based on a “flawed” investigation. “One person they took advice from who was held up as independent was later appointed as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States,” Mr Bowen was quoted as saying. “He was hardly impartial.” “

As readers will recall, we discussed that portion of Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with the Independent here.

Licence fee payers might find it very disturbing that the corporation’s journalists should be considered likely to express “outrage” at the thought of their work being held to account – according to the BBC’s own editorial guidelines and within the framework of its own self-regulating system, of course – by the members of the public who actually fund it. They may also naturally be concerned as to why it has taken two and a half years for this complaint to find its way through that self-regulating system, which was supposedly made more user-friendly not long ago. 

The Times article also suggests that the BBC Trust’s findings “would appear to show the corporation has failed to learn from the 2004 Balen Report”, which of course has not been made public to this day – also at the expense of the funding public.