BBC accused of breaching news helicopter agreement with ITN during Cliff Richard coverage


Media Editor

The BBC has been accused of breaching a notification agreement it has with ITN by not informing its rivals ITV News that it was using a news helicopter on the morning it covered a raid on the home of Sir Cliff Richard, following a deal struck by the corporation with South Yorkshire Police.

The news helicopter is shared by the BBC with ITV in order to save money, but each broadcaster is obliged under a written agreement to tell the other if it intends to deploy the resource.

The failure by BBC News to honour that agreement is an indication of the importance attached to the story by the broadcaster and its determination to protect its exclusive.

"They were so paranoid about losing the story that they even breached the contract," said a source. BBC sources disputed the idea that the decision not to notify ITV amounted to a legal breach of contract.

The BBC has faced criticism for its deployment of a news helicopter and the scale of its coverage as police arrived at the Berkshire residence. Its secretive deployment of the aircraft will add to the impression that the raid was regarded as an award-winning scoop which demanded dramatic coverage, even though Sir Cliff had not been arrested, let alone charged with any offence.

Vi0deo: Aerial view of Cliff Richard's house being searched

Among a list of nine questions posed by Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons Home Affairs committee to Lord Hall, director general of the BBC, was: "Who authorised a news helicopter to be launched to cover the search and on what information did they make this decision?"

Sources at ITN said the sight of aerial shots of Sir Cliff's home as the BBC broke the story caused "consternation" and surprise. Although the BBC, which has a majority stake in the news helicopter, was not obliged to disclose details of the story this was the first time the agreement to give notification of use of the aircraft had been breached. It is understood that ITN pays tens of thousands of pounds a year for its minority share in the use of the aircraft.

As IT broadcast the pictures from the news helicopter at the start of its 1pm news bulletin, the BBC shared the footage with ITV News and, unusually, did not charge for it. In a statement it said it had gone out of its way to help ITN.

“We were dealing with a sensitive breaking news story and made the decision to send up the helicopter to prerecord footage which we would share with ITN," said a BBC spokesperson. "We sent them the helicopter material when we broke the story at 1300 – 30 minutes before their lunchtime news at 1330. We organised the recording and distribution specifically so their lunchtime news would get the footage.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas