In an opinion piece in the Independent yesterday former chief correspondent of Panorama Tom Mangold called on the BBC to conduct a “searching inquiry into why its system of firewalls broke down”, in reference to last week’s finding of the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee that certain footage within a Panorama documentary was “more likely that not”, not genuine.
The BBC was ordered to make an on-air apology after a Panorama documentary about retail outlet Primark was found to have breached editorial guidelines on accuracy and fairness. The ESC said it had examined a “substantial body of evidence”, including rushes tapes, emails to the programme team from the freelance journalist who obtained the footage and witness evidence, in relation to a specific piece of footage which appeared in the film.
Although it admitted it was not able to say beyond reasonable doubt, the committee concluded that it was more likely than not that the footage was not genuine.
Writing in the Independent Mangold claimed the delay in this admission has caused “an editorial catastrophe”.
It is only now, three years after the programme was broadcast, that the BBC Trust has forced Panorama to admit the error of its ways. In the meantime, the BBC’s arrogant refusal to admit it was wrong has resulted in an editorial catastrophe not only for Panorama, the flagship, but for all the corporation’s journalism.
I joined Panorama from Fleet Street, where none of us had entirely clean hands. We coloured our stories as much as we could and thought nothing of doing things our editors never wanted to hear about. But, whatever we did, we never lied, deceived or made stories up. It was the short cut to the dole. And if a story wasn’t good enough or couldn’t be made to work – then there was always another round the corner. I know what it means to have to deliver with a tiny budget, but I also know when to give up.