Today is rapped over editing of discussion

Warned: Today staff have been reminded to ensure fairness at all times

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme has been reprimanded for “clumsy editing” after it was forced to apologise to a contributor for omitting his comments from a discussion and then unfairly allowing an opposing view to be aired.

In relation to a broadcast on 27 January this year, Andrew Tyler, a representative of Animal Aid, complained of unfairness and bias in a report on the decision by Cambridge University to abandon plans for a primate research centre. He said the Todayitem created the impression his organisation was involved in extremism and violence.

The BBC’s programme complaints unit found the programme to be unfair for a number of reasons. These included cutting out a point Tyler had made and declining his suggestion to include a scientist who opposed the university’s plans.

In its quarterly report, covering January to March 2004, the unit said: “Not enough was done to dissociate Animal Aid from the illegal or violent actions described in the report which immediately preceded Mr Tyler’s contribution.

In view of what had passed between Mr Tyler and the programme makers, it was out of place for the presenter to comment on his lack of scientific credentials.”

Today was asked to return to the subject at a later date and allow the scientist originally suggested by Tyler to challenge an advocate of the use of animals in medical research.

The BBC added that Today editors and producers “have been reminded of the need to ensure accuracy and fairness to contributors at all times, and communication procedures have been tightened”.

Producers on BBC Six O’clock News and Radio 4’s PM bulletin were also warned about accuracy, after a report on adopting children from Guatemala suggested the practice was illegal.

The BBC upheld three complaints about the item on a 22 January broadcast of PM and one on the BBC Six O’clock News based on the same report, agreeing that it was wrong to say “there are no laws governing adoption” in Guatemala and that there was “total lack of regulation” of the adoption process.

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