BBC Scotland in broken embargo controversy

By Hamish Mackay

A police force has officially complained to BBC Scotland after the
broadcaster allegedly broke an embargo on an interview with the widow
of a murdered Scottish banker.

The slaying of banker Alistair Wilson – gunned down on his own
doorstep in Nairn, near Inverness, in November – has led to the
biggest-ever murder hunt in the Scottish Highlands.

Last week the murder led to a week-long collaboration between police and the media in a bid to help bring the killer to justice.

As
part of the operation, Northern Constabulary media adviser Elayne
Grimes and her press team agreed to BBC TV Scotland and Sky News
prerecording interviews with the widow, VeronicaWilson– with the
proviso that they observed a strict embargo for lunchtime on Friday.
This agreement was witnessed by print journalists.

However BBC Scotland broke the embargo by carrying the interview as the lead item on Reporting Scotland on Thursday evening.

Sky
responded by running its material the same night and newspapers were
forced to lift the interview from the BBC Scotland website.

Grimes and her press team colleagues were at the receiving end of “angry and abusive”

telephone calls from representatives of some news organisations, it was claimed.

The
broken embargo issue caused such ill-feeling among journalists from
other news organisations that some were informally admonished by a
senior Northern Constabulary police officer – prior to a subsequent
pre-arranged police press briefing the following day.

The problems with the BBC did not end there.

A
press conference with Mrs Wilson had been arranged for Friday afternoon
at a nearby hotel. As she waited in a private room for her scheduled
appearance, BBC network reporter John Morrison and a film crew tried to
get access to her for a further interview, according to police sources.

The upshot was that the BBC staff were escorted off the premises by police and did not attend the press conference.

It
is understood that Mrs Wilson, who had been a party to the embargo, was
very upset when her interview was unexpectedly shown on Thursday
evening, and had to be persuaded not to call off the Friday press
conference.

Northern Constabulary chief constable Ian Latimer has
demanded an explanation from BBC Scotland’s head of news and current
affairs, Blair Jenkins, and raised the issue with the Association of
Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

A spokesman for BBC Scotland
said that there appeared to have been a “misunderstanding” over the
embargo date, and Phil Taylor, head of network news, was to travel
north to discuss the complaint with chief constable Latimer.

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