The BBC has admitted it has a “lesson to be learned” after it used years-old footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath on Remembrance Sunday, blaming the “high-pressure” newsroom environment for the error.
The broadcaster came under fire last week after a clip from 2016 was used three times on BBC Breakfast to illustrate the Prime Minister attending the annual remembrance service at the Cenotaph in London.
- April 22, 2021
- April 19, 2021
- March 23, 2021
Some 2,000 people complained to the BBC about the incident.
There were accusations the BBC had chosen to use the older footage because Johnson had looked more dishevelled this year, in a blue suit instead of a black one and with both his coat and jacket undone.
He was also accused of setting off to lay his wreath too early, and then of placing it upside down.
The BBC quickly apologised last week, saying the use of the archive footage was a “production mistake”.
A full response has now been published on the page where the BBC considers issues that receive a significant number of audience complaints, noting that “the BBC has apologised”.
It said: “It was a human error which will happen from time to time in the high-pressure environment of the newsroom, but we are reflecting on what happened and it’s clear there is a lesson to be learned from the confusion which was caused.”
BBC Breakfast editor Richard Frediani appeared on Newswatch to explain how the archive footage was used.
Newswatch is repeated during BBC Breakfast every Saturday after it is first aired on a Friday evening on the BBC News Channel the day before.
Frediani said the original footage was sourced by a producer on Saturday night after they searched something like “Johnson cenotaph” in the BBC server for potential preview footage to use ahead of the service the next morning.
The footage was subsequently saved onto a larger BBC server without reference to the year 2016, meaning producers for BBC Breakfast preparing Armistice Day segments for the next day mistakenly assumed it was from 2019.
Frediani said: “It was a human error, it shouldn’t have happened and it’s a mistake that I’ve apologised for at the time and importantly I’ve come on Newswatch to apologise for again.”
Responding to viewer concerns relayed by Newswatch host Samira Ahmed that the BBC was trying to downplay Johnson looking dishevelled, Frediani said: “That’s not true. Just being here explaining to you the course of events in some detail is an attempt by me to be transparent and honest about a mistake which was just a human error.
“Trust and accuracy is important to me as an editor, to all the journalists who work in BBC News, and frankly speaking for journalists who work in all broadcasters important for them too because it undermines the relationship with the audience. For that I apologise.
“We try to get things right but human mistakes can happen and when they do we are right to apologise.”
Pictures: BBC and Reuters/Toby Melville