The BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards David Jordan this week revealed that the broadcaster does use private detectives “occasionally and exceptionally” to help with programmes, but stressed that it is not aware of any BBC programme ever having commissioned a private detective to carry out illegal activity.
His comments on the BBC Editors blog followed this interview in the Sun this week, in which a private detective who was featured in Tabloid Hacks Exposed on Panorama this week, reportedly claimed he had previously worked as an inquiry agent for the documentary series.
In a statement, published here by Jon Slattery, the BBC responded to say it had searched archives dating back 25 years and can find no record of the programme described ever being broadcast.
Seeking to clarify the BBC’s stance Jordan said the broadcaster has used private detectives in some cases, such as for consumer programmes which aim to expose “rogues” and wrongdoing.
We might employ third parties to carry out the necessary surveillance to find out where they are and where they might be approached and, on occasion, to obtain a photograph of them. Usually we track down individuals we want to speak to ourselves. But in very hard cases we might employ the specialist skills of a private detective to help us find someone.
He added that the editorial guidelines are clear: intrusions into privacy need a strong public interest justification.
Suggestions that the BBC might use private investigators for political stories are wide of the mark and those who are “genuinely surprised the BBC used private investigators to stand up stories” should remain surprised. The BBC validates and stands up its own journalism wherever facts and information come from.