Sky News rejects watchdog's rap on fatal air crash

Sky News: footage was ‘serious and respectful’

Sky News has challenged a Broadcasting Standards Commission ruling after the regulator slammed a bulletin that aired footage of an air crash in which two pilots died as “gratuitous and insensitive”.

The BSC criticised the item, broadcast in the afternoon of 12 July, after upholding 14 complaints. The report included footage of a plane crashing at an air show on Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire, in which both the pilot and navigator died.

Sky News obtained the footage from a production company that had been filming the whole event.

The BSC took issue with the repeated use of the footage, which showed the moment of impact as well as the wreckage, deeming it gratuitous. “This was exacerbated by the insensitive nature of some aspects of the commentary and visual treatment of the tragedy,” the regulator’s standards panel said.

Sky News, which received the footage 30 minutes after the crash, insisted it was transmitted with “an appropriately serious and respectful commentary”. In a statement, the broadcaster said it believed the ruling to be wrong and showed “a lack of understanding of modern 24-hour news”. “The incident involved was dramatic and shocking.

It happened in a public place in front of thousands of people. We reported it quickly, comprehensively and professionally. We do not seek to alarm or upset our viewers, but it seems to us inevitable that on such occasions some people will be unhappy at seeing such images. We certainly do not believe that our coverage was gratuitous or insensitive,” Sky News said.

A complaint against Panorama for unfair treatment was partially upheld, after the subject of its programme on police corruption said it implied he was guilty of offences for which he was not convicted.

Of Panorama: Bent Cop, broadcast on BBC One on 3 December, 2000, the BSC said it was acceptable to portray the subject as being present during two incidents but said the programme “should not simply have presented him as guilty of offences, allegedly committed, which he had denied and of which he had not been convicted. This was unfair.”

By Wale Azeez

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