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31/01/2001

BBC PLEDGES EFFECTIVE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

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BBC CHAIRMAN Christopher Bland has pledged that, in the wake of the recent Communications White Paper, the BBC Governors would continue to ensure that the BBC operates an effective procedure for handling complaints.
In his foreword to the latest quarterly BBC Programme Complaints Bulletin, he stated: “It is the job of the Programme Complaints Unit to provide a fair and rigorous system for investigating serious complaints – independently of programme makers. The Governors, through their programme Complaints Committee, provide a channel of appeal for people who are not satisfied with the response to a complaint they have made.
“As regulators of the BBC, the governors must not only ensure a proper response to complaints from individuals, but give a public account of serious editorial complaints which have been upheld and the action taken to remedy these.
“This issue includes details of a case where the Head of Programme Complaints found it necessary to recommend a broadcast correction. Last year, the Governors asked the Director-General whether the BBC were more reluctant than they should be to broadcast corrections. He agreed that BBC policy was not always applied and reminded programme makers that acknowledging important errors and putting them right was a sign of strength, not weakness. It is a sign that the message has struck home that this recommendation has been made.”
The latest quarterly bulletin reports on the work of the BBC’s Programme Complaints Unit during the period October 1 to December 31 2000. The Unit dealt with 157 complaints concerning 132 items. In this period, 18 complaints were upheld, eight of them partly, concerning 17 different broadcasts or series.
BBC Director-General, Greg Dyke said: “The BBC’s policy is clear – where programmes have made significant errors of fact, they should put them right. But how significant does an error have to be before it warrants a broadcast correction? That’s always going to be a matter of judgement, and we have to consider whether the mistake may have done any real harm, and whether a broadcast correction is the best remedy.
"In the last nine months, I’m glad to say that most of the cases identified by the Head of Programme Complaints have looked after themselves. In some cases, broadcast correction was clearly not necessary, and when it clearly was, the programme-makers did it without the need for a formal recommendation. The case in this bulletin is different because it is a close call – it’s the kind of mistake we might well not have corrected in the past. We do now.”
The full report provides a breakdown of the complaints received. (CMcL)
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