BBC stands firm over Holyrood tape row

BBC Scotland’s new controller Ken MacQuarrie has stood by the decision not to hand over the Holyrood tapes – despite a scathing attack on the corporation at the inquiry into the £380m overspend on the new Scottish Parliament building.

John Campbell QC, senior counsel for the Fraser Inquiry, condemned the BBC’s “completely unjustifiable and regrettable refusal to co-operate”.

He accused the corporation of arrogance and immaturity.

But MacQuarrie has said the BBC will not break promises to contributors nor compromise its journalistic integrity, by handing over 200 hours of unseen footage shot for a forthcoming documentary called The Gathering Place.

And MacQuarrie emphasised that the BBC’s governors have twice cited the BBC Producers’ Guidelines as justification for the refusal.

Campbell, at the close of the inquiry, warned it may have to be reopened if the tapes contradict previous evidence.

Campbell told Lord Fraser: “My clear submission is that the BBC has, inexplicably, failed to recognise where the public interest lies, and by its refusal has in part thwarted the purpose of the inquiry.”

However, in his submission to the inquiry, Alistair Bonnington, solicitor advocate for BBC Scotland, said: “Any media organisation which gives promises in order that it can obtain information and then breaks these promises when this is convenient, will quite rightly have their integrity seriously eroded.

“The idea of the legislature forcing a broadcaster to deliver up untransmitted film footage is contrary to the principles that apply in any modern democracy.”

Five of the people interviewed had expressed their strong desire to see that the tapes were withheld, said Bonnington.

It has emerged that the inquiry team has been allowed to see three hours of yet-to-be broadcast film – showing interviews with the late First Minister Donald Dewar and the late senior architect Enric Miralles, but only after references to other people had been edited out.

The documentary programme is expected to be shown early next year when the copyright on all of the untransmitted film footage will revert to the independent programme maker Wark Clements.

By Hamish Mackay

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