BBC1 controller quits after damning report into royal documentary row
The BBC One controller, Peter Fincham, resigned yesterday after the publication of a damning report into misleading footage which appeared to show the Queen storming out of a photo-shoot.
Stephen Lambert, the chief creative officer of RDF, the independent production company behind the documentary A Year with the Queen, from which the footage was taken , also tendered his resignation.
At a BBC One press launch in July, a trailer was screened which appeared to show the Queen walking out of a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz. Mr Fincham said it showed the monarch "walking out in a huff". It soon transpired, however, that the sequence of events had been altered, and that far from storming out, the Queen had chuckled and continued with the photo shoot.
Amid a media storm, the BBC commissioned an independent report into the affair by the former BBC executive Will Wyatt. The report, published yesterday, found that the incident revealed "misjudgements, poor practice and ineffective systems".
Mr Fincham was criticised for allowing BBC News to run the story about the Queen walking out of the photo shoot for many hours after he knew it to be inaccurate. Although the BBC One controller knew by 7pm on the day of the launch that the tape was misleading, BBC News was still running the story the following morning.
RDF also came under fire for the "cavalier fashion" in which it edited footage of the Queen used in the tape.
Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, came in for criticism for " displaying a lack of curiosity" in getting to the bottom of the matter, although it is thought that she will remain in her post.
Following publication of the report, Mr Thompson admitted that "serious mistakes" were made.
While the director general said he took comfort from Mr Wyatt's conclusion that "no one consciously set out to defame or misrepresent the Queen", he added: "It is important that the BBC learns all the lessons from this matter and takes steps to ensure that nothing of this kind is repeated."
The BBC came under fire for devolving too much of the relationship with Buckingham Palace to RDF. "A vital relationship – that between the BBC and the Royal Household – had been, at the very least, placed under strain, and the reputation of the BBC, already having sustained damage over the issue of trust, was tarnished further in the eyes of the licence fee paying public," the report concluded.
The report said that those handling the issue, including Mr Fincham, " were slow to appreciate the magnitude and import of the mistake... and failed to involve enough people swiftly enough". That included the director general, who was not alerted to the problem on the day of the launch.
The mistake arose after RDF rearranged the order of four shots, so that a shot of the Queen striding towards the interview saying "I'm not changing anything, I've had enough" was moved from the beginning to the end of the sequence.
The footage was then given to Red Bee Media to prepare a launch tape for BBC One's autumn season. Despite requests from RDF, Red Bee Media did not let the independent production company view the tape.
Although Mr Fincham and the head of communications for BBC One, Jane Fletcher, who is also believed to have resigned, viewed the tape three times, they did not grasp the news potential of what they saw, the report said.
By 7pm, Mr Fincham knew the order of the shots was wrong. Later that night, a statement correcting the trailer was agreed with Buckingham Palace. But it was decided not to issue the statement until the following morning.
The next day, BBC News carried the story that the Queen had stormed out of the photo shoot. It was not until noon that BBC News Online reported the correction. The BBC has introduced a series of new measures in the wake of the Wyatt report, including appointing a senior executive in each department with responsibility for editorial standards, and reinforcing the principle of referring all problems upwards.
In his resignation letter, Mr Fincham, who joined the BBC from the independent production company Talkback Thames in March 2005, said: " While I leave the channel with great sadness I am tremendously proud of what I and my team have achieved."
Mr Lambert accepted that his actions had been "cavalier" and said in a statement: "It was therefore right that I should go."
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