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House of Commons Culture, Media & Sport Committee

November 17th, 2014 · No Comments

The BBC Complaints Framework

The inquiry manager has assured me that these issues will be brought to the attention of the committee during its deliberations on the BBC.

I am writing with regard to item 54 (see below) of the House of Lords Communications Committee report The governance and regulation of the BBC, this is as a result of making a complaint that is now subject to review by the BBC Trust having been dismissed by the senior complaints advisor.

Please note that I am not raising the issue of the complaint itself but the way in which it has been handled and the need for OFCOM to be the last stop on the issues of impartiality and accuracy.

I attach the request for a review and draw to your attention the introduction which is as follows.

“The BBC Trust as the last stage in the complaints framework should be totally independent and impartial, moreover part of any formal process within the concept of natural justice is the disclosure of material relied upon as evidence. However, a copy of the Breakfast broadcast is not available on iplayer and regarding the BBC’s FOI questionnaire concerning student complaints, the Director of the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit] stated that it would not be appropriate to show me a copy and the reply to a request under the Freedom of Information Act was as follows:

“The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion.”

This has put me at a serious disadvantage regarding a fair hearing within the complaints framework particularly when dismissal is based upon evidence that has been withheld. Not only am I being hindered to fully answer the selective extracts, it has caused confusion at the expense of the facts resulting in dismissal of my appeals based upon misinformation and hence the substance of my complaints. I am also hindered by a limit of 1,000 words to challenge a document over 4,000 words long.”

There is also a complex and protracted argument about the use of statistics concerning the numbers of student complaints and appeals brought about by a BBC questionnaire that did not include the full remit of university complaints that can be considered by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). Therefore this cannot be construed as a total of all complaints and academic appeals nor does it give a true picture of the issues involved, however, the BBC is not going to contemplate that it got it wrong and misled the public on this very important issue. This highlights the need for an independent final arbiter in the BBC complaints framework for regulating impartiality and accuracy.

Please bring this to the attention of the Committee and if you need any further information please ask.

Yours sincerely

Trevor Mayes

Item 54. “We recommend that the BBC Trust and Ofcom work together to resolve the regulation of impartiality and accuracy so that the BBC is no longer its own judge and jury in these matters. In order to aid these discussions we propose three options for consideration by the Trust and Ofcom. The majority of our Committee proposes that Ofcom are given final responsibility for regulating impartiality and accuracy in BBC public service broadcasting content.”

Reply

Dear Mr Mayes

As you may have seen, the Committee has been holding an inquiry into the future of the BBC over the last year and completed taking oral evidence in October when it met with the BBC Trust and the Secretary of State.  You may be interested to read the transcript from this session or watch the webcast online.  As you will imagine, governance and regulation issues will be considered by the Committee in its report.  The Committee is aware of previous inquiries on the BBC held by the Lords Communications Committee.

Thank you for sharing your case with the Committee.  I shall make sure it is brought to the attention of the Committee during its deliberations on the BBC.

Yours sincerely

Inquiry Manager

Tags: Culture Media & Sport Committee