The BBC is facing criticism online for its treatment of the National Bullying Headline (NBH) as a source in reports on allegations of staff bullying by Gordon Brown.
The story broke over the weekend in an excerpt of journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s new book published in the Observer and reports by the BBC and other news organisations have featured a spokeswoman, Christine Pratt, from the NBH, saying the charity helpline had received calls from staff in the PM’s office in recent years.
Questions over confidentiality breaches aside, several bloggers are challenging a lack of clarity in the BBC’s reports over the bullying charity’s credentials and potential political links to the Conservative party.
On Tory Troll, Adam Bienkov says that basic checks of the NBH website suggest links to the Conservatives – an endorsement from David Cameron and patronage by Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe amongst other potential ties. On Twitter @malcolmcoles and @jackofkent have also been detailing the story and looking into NBH.
[Pratt seems to be back-pedalling now in comments made in a Sky News interview, saying while she did receive an email referring to the PM’s behaviour, she did not know if phonecalls to the helpline received from Gordon Brown’s staff were complaints about Brown himself.]
BBC reports did contain a statement from NBH’s Pratt that the organisation was non-political and BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson has since blogged on the questions about the NBH’s claims, stating:
Colleagues checked the status of the charity and questioned Ms Pratt’s claims.
We can’t, of course, verify the truth of her allegations – merely report them and Downing Street’s response to them.
But is this enough when Pratt’s statements seem to have eclipsed Rawnsley’s original reports as a central source for the BBC’s story?