BBC News programme ‘breached’ Ofcom broadcast standards

The broadcaster has said it ‘accepts’ the Ofcom decision.

Ellie Iorizzo
Monday 07 March 2022 17:16
BBC (Ian West/PA)
BBC (Ian West/PA)

A BBC News programme has been found to have breached “broadcast standards” due to it featuring an inaccurate statement which was not acknowledged or corrected on air, Ofcom has said.

The media watchdog revealed the results of an investigation into a segment on BBC News At Six which aired on February 26 hosted by Sophie Raworth.

During a live report from Holyrood, the BBC’s former Scotland editor Sarah Smith inaccurately said Alex Salmond had called for Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister of Scotland at a parliamentary committee.

BBC reporter Sarah Smith inaccurately said Alex Salmond had called for Nicola Sturgeon to resign (Jane Barlow/PA)

Smith said: “Alex Salmond said he believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the Ministerial Code, which he thinks means she should resign”.

But Mr Salmond had not called for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation and had told the inquiry that he had no doubt that Ms Sturgeon had broken the Ministerial Code, but added “it is not for me to suggest what the consequences should be.”

The BBC accepted the news report was “not duly accurate” and said it had taken what it considered to be “appropriate action to mitigate the error”.

This included a clarification on the reporters Twitter page, a correction posted on the BBC’s corrections and clarifications website alongside a summary of action being taken, and making clear on the BBC News At 10 programme that Mr Salmond had stopped short of calling for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.

However, on Monday, Ofcom ruled the corporation was in breach of “broadcast standards” because they failed to acknowledge and correct the mistake on-air.

In a statement, Ofcom said: “News must be reported with due accuracy.

“This programme broke our rules by including a significant inaccurate statement that was not acknowledged or corrected on air.

“Our investigation also uncovered differences between the BBC’s published final decision on the programme and its response to a particular complainant.

“The BBC must be transparent in how it handles and resolves complaints, and we will consider this case as part of our review of BBC regulation.”

We are absolutely committed to transparency around complaints and we always seek to correct any issues as swiftly as possible.

BBC

Ofcom also said their investigation found BBC editorial guidelines around on-air corrections “do not clearly reflect” their requirements.

The watchdog added that the BBC should “amend its editorial guidelines” and they “intended to discuss” the matter with the corporation as a “priority”.

In a statement, the BBC said: “We accept the decision.

“We are absolutely committed to transparency around complaints and we always seek to correct any issues as swiftly as possible.

“We will reflect on the findings and, of course, if there is more we can do to explain how we make our judgments on complaints then we will look at that.”

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