MP's attack on students earns a rebuke for BBC

Student complaint against BBC South Today upheld

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has upheld a complaint against BBC South Today that it treated a student featured on the programme unfairly.

Two editions of the BBC One regional news bulletin, which went out on 3 April last year, reported criticism by Hove MP Ivor Caplin of a group of students who made a trip to the Middle East. Caplin asserted that the students had put people’s lives at risk as a result of their trip.

Dan Glazebrooke, one of the students, complained that he had been treated unfairly because Caplin’s political allegiance and membership of the Labour Friends of Israel had not been mentioned in the report.

Glazebrooke also complained that he was not given a chance to respond to Caplin’s allegations that the students had put others at risk.

The BBC was directed to broadcast an approved summary of the regulator’s findings on BBC South Today on 12 March 2003 and to publish a statement in the Oxford Mail.

The BSC also upheld in part a complaint of unfair treatment against BBC One’s Watchdog from James Wray MP, aired on 6 December 2001.

The episode looked at the performance of Members of Parliament, and a statement on air saying that Wray was “too busy” to appear on the programme was deemed inadequate, in that it did not make clear the MP was in Europe on parliamentary business.

In addition, the BSC said this “compounded by the particularly flippant manner in which he was said to be ‘too busy'”, and therefore found unfairness to Wray on that count. It directed the BBC to broadcast an approved summary of the findings on BBC One on 15 April 2003 and published them in The Times.

lA complaint against ITV Weekend News that it was offensive to link terrorist activities to Muslims, after three men were arrested, was not upheld. According to ITN, the bulletin on 17 November 2002 sought “to cover the substance of the plot, the type of gas that could have been used and any possible connection with recognised terrorist groups”.

Limited facts known about those arrested were listed, which included their North African origin, that the three men were Muslims and that they had French identification papers.

ITN said that with so little firm information available, it felt “justified in reporting all the known facts, particularly in light of the continuing threat from religious extremists”.

The BSC acknowledged that some viewers found it offensive to mention terrorist suspects’ religion when reporting a story on an alleged plot to attack London Underground, but took the view that, within the context of a serious news report the purpose had been to provide legitimate information to the public and was unlikely to have caused offence to the majority of the audience.

By Wale Azeez

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