Broadcaster 'tried to rush out' retraction on busy news day

Grade tells Paul Vallely that timing of statement was 'too much of a coincidence'

The BBC tried to bury its apology to Band Aid by broadcasting it on a heavy news day, the former chairman of the BBC and Band Aid trustee, Michael Grade, claimed yesterday.

"On a number of occasions the BBC tried to rush out an announcement, on heavy news days," said Mr Grade, a former Controller of BBC1 and chief executive of Channel 4. "They tried to bounce us into making an announcement, in terms that weren't agreed, on the day the Chilean miners were released and then on the day the public spending cuts were announced. They said it was just coincidence. But it was a bit too much of a coincidence, if you ask me."

Mr Grade said that the process of extracting an apology from the BBC had been protracted and painful. "From the moment it dawned on the BBC that they had got this story horribly wrong they seemed to believe that to come clean and apologise quickly would be a sign of weakness. They didn't grasp the fact that a quick and fulsome admission of failure is actually a sign of great strength," he said.

"It is surprising to me that a story so devoid of evidence could make it to air. Given the outcome of its own investigation, and the admissions now made, I'm very surprised that the BBC attempted to defend the smear."

But it did for almost eight months before agreeing to make an apology. It was "an unnecessarily difficult process", he said, which "does the BBC no credit whatsoever, undermining... its reputation as a world-class news organisation."

The strength of the BBC's reputation meant that when it does make a mistake it was "more serious than anybody else's mistake," he said. Bob Geldof agreed. "The BBC has a special obligation, most singularly in the case of the World Service whose broadcasts are relied upon by people in difficult situations in places like Africa where the truth can be a life or death issue," the Band Aid founder said. "So it has a particular responsibility to check its facts."

Yet the BBC had been terribly slow in owning up to the mistake it had made. "The Band Aid trustees are all experienced campaigners," said Michael Grade. "We know the media, how it works, the people, we know the levers to pull. Yet this whole process has been a nightmare for us. So what chance does the ordinary person have of getting redress from the BBC. It is very worrying.

"Everybody makes mistakes. It's how quickly you put them right that counts. What we discovered is that there is a large degree of arrogance in the BBC on the journalistic side that doesn't believe it can be wrong. And most of the time it isn't. I've been on the other side. And I know there are many times where powerful people put pressure on you to drop the story or alter it and you check it out and find out its true. So it's understandable that their first response to us was that we were just trying to put pressure on them.

"But there must have come a moment quite early in the process where they realised that the programme didn't stack up," he said. Yet two months in the BBC Director General wrote to the trustees maintaining the reports were "robust and excellent journalism". "That looks a bit odd now in the light of these apologies. I don't know how he could have written that letter knowing what we now know."

John Kennedy, a former record industry lawyer and the Band Aid trustee who oversaw the complaint believes the BBC complaints system needs an overhaul. "I have respect for the professionalism shown by the complaints unit but they are in a difficult position. They are investigating complaints against the BBC, on BBC notepaper, in BBC premises, hired and fired by the BBC and answerable to the BBC, so I don't see how they really can be independent," he said. "BBC funds should be used to fund a completely independent unit."

Ofcom could not fulfil that role as it is constituted: "Unfortunately, the rules relating to complaints to Ofcom on the BBC are a labyrinth of complexity". Ofcom should have greater teeth so far as the BBC is concerned.

"If people of the influence of Bob Geldof and Michael Grade – backed by contacts and expertise that could put thousands of hours into this complaint – struggled, what hope would a wronged ordinary individual have of getting any semblance of justice from this process?"

"In the end we have the outcome we wanted," concluded Bob Geldof. "But serious damage may well have been done to people's confidence that the money they give to those in need gets where it is supposed to. And the most fulsome apology can never undo all the damage that has been done."

Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn