Panorama report 'breached BBC editorial guidelines'

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A Panorama programme breached BBC editorial guidelines over a report on new scientific research into the treatment of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and "distorted" some known facts, the BBC Trust said today.

The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) partially upheld an appeal over a complaint about BBC1's flagship current affairs show, titled What Next for Craig?, which aired on November 12 2007.

An apology will be broadcast during a future edition of Panorama, and the BBC's deputy director general Mark Byford will meet with the committee to ensure the breaches are not repeated.

The committee found that Panorama did not accurately report the findings of a follow-up scientific study comparing the treatment of children with ADHD, and that the programme makers should not have relied solely on the views of one scientist.

It also said viewers should have been told that there is a wide range of views on the subject.

The committee considered an appeal brought by a third party, who argued the programme was inaccurate and unbalanced in the way it dealt with the issue of how ADHD should be treated.

The episode looked into the long-term use of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin.

The committee found that that the programme failed to accurately report the findings of a three-year follow-up study in the United States to the Multimodal Treatment Study (MTA) of Children with ADHD.

The committee described the MTA study as the most comprehensive of its kind, examining the safety and comparative effectiveness of medication and behaviour therapy, alone and in combination.

It compared the treatments to routine care over a 14-month period.

But the committee found the programme did not make it clear that the treatment groups had improved at the 36 month stage and that medication offered a significant improvement over time, albeit not over the other treatment groups, at 36 months.

It said programme makers should not have solely relied on the views of Professor Pelham, one of the authors of the MTA 36-month follow-up study, and should have included the views of other authors.

The show "distorted some of the known facts" in its presentation of the follow-up study, the ESC said.

The programme did not explain that other authors of the MTA 36-month follow-up study had interpreted the findings in different ways and "the correct interpretation of the findings of the study was a matter of scientific debate".

It said the programme failed to report the MTA 36-month follow up findings in context, and as a result "took insufficient care to avoid worrying the audience about health issues".

The report also said those behind the show did not deliberately produce an inaccurate programme.

But it found "the programme failed to meet the requirements of impartiality in that the programme makers were not fair and open minded when examining the evidence and weighing all the material facts, nor were they even handed in their approach to the subject".

The committee found there was no breach of guidelines relating to harm and offence or to children who took part.

The report said: "The ESC expects the highest standards from Panorama as BBC1's flagship current affairs programme, and this programme failed to reach those standards.

"Due to the serious nature of the breaches the ESC will apologise to the complainant on behalf of the BBC and require the broadcast of a correction."