The BBC regrets the error - what about you lot?

 by Martin Belam, 19 July 2007

Those 1980s Stourbridge Grebo rockers were nearly right, but it wasn't pop that was going to eat itself, it was the UK media - judging by today's feeding frenzy of disapproval at the revelation of more audience deceit by the BBC over phone-in competitions.


Just a thought - as everyone sits down to pen or typewrite or word-process or feather quill their scathing op-ed pieces for the weekend press, perhaps they'd like to have a cursory look through the list below, and see if they think there might be a similar issue of trust between the public and their newspapers.

The Mirror was leading today with "BBCHEATS", declaring the Corporation 'shameless' and suggesting that there were "fears that the broadcaster's famed reputation for truth, integrity and public service was tarnished almost beyond repair". The Mirror certainly knows a thing or two about tarnished reputations. Only yesterday they had to print this correction:

"BIG Brother's Carole is a sexual health worker, not a sex worker, which usually means something rather different"

and a couple of weeks ago they came out with this corker:

"ON 16 April we reported on an interview given by Bryan Ferry to a German newspaper. Our article was headed 'The Nazis were so amazing' and claimed that Mr Ferry had been 'singing the praises of the Nazis'. We now accept this was not true. In fact, Mr Ferry had spoken only of his admiration from an artistic point of view for some aspects of German art, architecture and presentation which were associated with the Nazi regime. He made no mention of the Nazi regime nor did he use the word 'Nazi'."

The Sun on the other hand, with today's story "They're bear faced cheats", recently suggested that Michael Jackson was paid £5m to go to a birthday party - he wasn't.


And there is even a blog dedicated solely to the string of factual inaccuracies and misleading items published by Victoria Newton in the paper.

The Guardian's errors and corrections column is usually more detailed than most, leading to all manner of minor amusing mistakes being noted. My favourite so far this year has been:

"Delegates at the Communications Workers Union conference did not censor their executive, they censured it"

Their coverage of the BBC scandal has been relatively gentle so far - "BBC gets a year to clean up" - but there has certainly been acres of it online.


Presumably they know their target audience well.

On to The Independent - today's headline is a rather generous "BBC suspends phone-in competitions after breaches". Did Cherie Booth have a shower with Carole Caplin?

Yes she did.

Oh, hang on, no, she didn't.

"Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms Blair's representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article. They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms Blair "has never shared a shower with Ms Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms Caplin"

Or what about Tom Bower's expenses?

"In the diary in the media section of 16 July 2007 we wrongly stated that Tom Bower's expenses while attending the Conrad Black trial were paid for by the Evening Standard, whose editor is Mr Bower's wife, Veronica Wadley. It was also suggested that the relationship between Mr Bower and his wife raised similar issues to that of Conrad Black and his wife. We now accept that these allegations were inaccurate."

The Daily Express - CHILDREN IN NEED CAUGHT IN BBC PHONE-IN FIASCO - has also had a chequered past in the last couple of months of being truthful and getting all their facts straight, as this apology from June 11th indicates.

"In our article of April 30, headed 'Now Muslims Get Their Own Laws in Britain', we published [a] photograph, captioned 'community leader Sheikh Yaqub Munshi'.
The article described the man in question as being the head of the Sharia court in Dewsbury, about which the article together with a comment piece by Leo McKinstry contained a number of allegations, including of Islamic extremism.
We wish to make clear that the photograph in question, which was published in error, was in fact of Mr Kala Khan.
Mr Khan has no connection whatsoever with the Sharia Court or with Sheikh Yaqub Munshi.
We accept that Mr Khan has no interest in supporting such courts in Britain and is not involved in any kind of extremism.
We apologise to Mr Khan for the distress and embarrassment caused by our mistake."

The fantastic Regret The Error site, from where I've plucked these examples, doesn't catch everything - so it missed this one from The Mail On Sunday, whose sister paper was today leading online with 'The shaming of the BBC... now the police may be called in' until they got a better and more shaming drugs'n'politics story.

"Over the last two Sundays we published stories claiming that TV news presenter Jon Snow had an affair with a writer called Precious Williams, and that they smoked cannabis together.

There is no truth in these allegations. We accept that, in fact, Mr Snow never had any relationship with Miss Williams, and that the allegation of drug taking was unfounded. We are happy to set the record straight, and we apologise for the embarrassment caused."

It hasn't been a good year in the courts so far for the Mail either, which has lost an action brought by Hugh Grant and settled out of court with Newsnight producer Thea Rogers.

And then there was the Natasha Kaplinky's family massacred by the Nazis non-story.

None of which does anything, of course, to make the BBC any less guilty of deceiving their audience than they appear to be - a topic I shall return to later today.

However, it does suggest that perhaps some of our British print media might have to be a little bit careful as they clambour up to the moral high ground to lecture their television colleagues on the morals of accuracy and honesty.


Too right!

I do think this BBC business is being blown out of all proportion, even if they clearly were in the wrong.

Re: Ferry: Didn't he?

The Mirror says sorry to Ferry from No Rock And Roll Fun

And he still a disgusting excuse for a human in my book, as is his criminal son

Well, I'm not sure about visiting the sins of the son upon the father, Bryan Ferry is still all "Mother Of Pearl" and "Casanova" to me, so I have a soft spot for the old rogue.

Of course, the question is who is more at fault here. Me for not fact-checking my quoting of the Mirror's apology - or The Mirror for issuing an apology that wasn't consistent with what appears to be the facts?

Oh the Mirror, undoubtedly. :)

And his son is vile for different, yet equally valid reasons.

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