NUJ claims BBC complaints unit procedures undermined journalists

The National Union of Journalists has criticised the findings of the BBC Trust’s editorial standard committee after it decided to partially uphold a complaint against an edition of Panorama which looked into the treatment of ADHD.

The NUJ said last night that it had concerns about the methods of the standards committee and that it would seek and urgent meeting with the trust to ‘seek assurances that the procedures would be changed in order to protect investigative journalism”.

The BBC Trust yesterday published the outcome of the committee’s investigation which found the programme from 2007, while not deliberately misleading, distorted some facts, failed to acknowledge a series factual error and failed to accurately report the findings of study that looked treatments of ADHD.

The NUJ has suggested that programme-makers should have been given a better opportunity to defend their show after the sole complainant, unhappy at the editorial standards unit’s initial findings, took his claims to a second stage.

The union argued that failure to implement proper procedures seriously prejudiced the interests of the journalists involved.

Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish national organiser, said: “There is a need for a much more transparent complaints procedure which allows for a more robust defence of investigative journalism.

‘The Panorama staff who had worked on this programme are experienced, award-winning journalists who are used to making documentaries on medical issues.

‘However they were not made aware of the way the complaint was proceeding, and this left their reputations vulnerable to the trust’s eventual findings.”

The BBC Trust said yesterday that the complainant’s own criticisms about the way his complaint was handled will be dealt with in a separate ruling.

The trust is also understood to be in the midst of gathering research into the effectiveness of the BBC’s ‘stage one’ complaints process following the introduction of a new system last year – result of that research are expected in the coming weeks – however that will not have a great effect on what  the NUJ is complaining about, which is in effect the second stage of the process.

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