News footage of wedding horror backed by watchdog

The decision by broadcasters to use home video footage showing the collapse of a dance floor during a wedding celebration in Jerusalem has been backed by TV watchdogs.

News bulletins on the BBC, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 that showed footage of the hotel incident in May, when hundreds of guests fell through the floor, prompted complaints from 23 viewers.

But the Broadcasting Standards Commission agreed with the ITN – which produced the bulletins for the commercial channels – and the BBC that the disaster was a matter of legitimate public interest.

The BBC, which showed the footage on its 6pm and 10 pm bulletins, as well as on its 24-hour news channel, told the commission that "the importance of the story lay in the very aspects of the depiction which prompted the complaints".

While acknowledging that the images were shocking, the corporation said the footage "could have prompted nothing but sympathy for the victims". ITN and Channel 4 pointed out that the story was widely reported before the wedding video came to light and that Channel 5 argued that the "remarkable footage" was "one of the defining elements of the story and became crucial in covering it".

ITN said its senior editorial managers reviewed the pictures and adhered to its own editorial policy and the BSC’s Code of Practice by avoiding showing the dying or close-ups of injuries. A longer version was shown only after the watershed on ITV’s News at Ten.

Channel 4 News said that while it accepted "that actuality footage of scenes in which people are clearly seen being killed or about to die require exceptional justification", it was not clear that the people shown celebrating before the collapse were among those who died or were injured. It added that the footage gave "genuine insight into, and understanding of, the nature, scale and human cost of what was believed to be Israel’s worst civil disaster".

By Julie Tomlin

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