Granada `bias' claim over Clegg

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The Independent Online
Granada Television's This Morning programme has been criticised by the Independent Television Commission for a potentially biased item about Private Lee Clegg. At the same time, it was confirmed last night that editorial control of the weekday morning programme, hosted by husband and wife team Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, has been taken out of the hands of the editor, Paula Trafford, and given to a seniorexecutive of Granada.

The commission's concern follows a programme last Tuesday featuring a "phone-in petition" in which viewers were invited to telephone if they supported the campaign to release Pte Clegg, jailed for murdering Karen Reilly while on patrol in Northern Ireland. It also conducted an interview with the soldier's parents.

An ITC spokeswoman said last night the commission was concerned that in presenting only Pte Clegg's side of the argument, the item may have breached its rules on impartiality. Under the Broadcasting Act 1990, the ITC must do all it can to ensure "that due impartiality be provided on the part of the persons providing the service as respects matters political or industrial, or relating to current public policy".

The commission believes the item affects public policy and in the current climate could be construed as political. "We've taken up our concerns with Granada and we're waiting for a response," the spokeswoman added.

This latest controversy once again highlights Granada's erratic compliance record. Last month, the ITC fined Granada £500,000 after This Morning repeatedly broke rules on product placement. It finally took action when the programme ran a competition withSafeway and She magazine despite rules barring sponsorship of such contests. Granada had been warned for seven previous lapses.

A spokesman said Paula Trafford had not been suspended from the company, and said the programme's editorial reporting structures were under review.