BBC stalls on Fearon interview broadcast

By Caitlin Pike

The debate over the BBC’s decision to pay burglar Brendan Fearon
£4,500 for an interview as part of a programme being made on Tony
Martin continued this week as director general Mark Thompson told MPs
that it had not yet been decided if the programme would be broadcast.

Thompson, speaking to the select committee looking into the BBC
charter renewal, said that the decision to pay Fearon, who was jailed
after he broke into Martin’s house in 1999, had been taken in line with
BBC producers guidelines and was done in consultation with the
Corporation’s controller of editorial policy. Thompson also said that
he would decide whether the programme would go out.

Lord Fowler, chairman of the select committee said paying Fearon was not “one of the greatest decisions the BBC has taken”.

Tim
Bishop, head of regional and local programmes at BBC Norwich, has
crticised the payment. In a letter to Ariel, the BBC’s staff magazine,
he said the licence fee payers, particularly in Norwich, would find it
impossible to understand the decision to pay for the interview. He
added: “The same goes for journalists who covered this story from the
start. Some of them were wondering if it could be made clear on air
that this was not a BBC East documentary as in the minds of most people
we are one BBC.

“Many say it seemed particularly crass because of the current funding debate.

It does but that’s not even the point.

We shouldn’t be doing it because we’re the BBC.”

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