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>1) Yesterday's Independent had a long piece (see below) exposing how the >World Service was duped into broadcasting what was essentially a piece of >RAF propaganda about the Feb. 16th bombing of Iraq. > >One of our members has suggested that folk e-mail the BBC's Feedback >programme (a programme whose content is 'entirely directed by the letters, >emails and faxes it receives from listeners') to ask for some sort of >right-of-reply. Their e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. This evening (11 March 2001) BBC Feedback covered these complaints. It quoted a chunk of Howard Leader's original FOOC report, and then quoted criticisms from someone called Tim Buckley, and then from me. Afterwards, the presenter interviewed a BBC manager. I made a transcript of the interview: PRESENTER: So what are the facts? I went to Bush House to talk to the Director of News for the English services, Bob Jobbins. I asked him first, who IS Howard Leader? Is he a World Service correspondent? JOBBINS: Howard Leader is, as far as I'm aware, nobody's correspondent. He was represented to us as someone who has worked for, and continues to work for, some BBC programmes. And certainly at the time when this contribution was commissioned for From Our Own Correspondent, the producer of the programme understood that he was talking to someone who was a regular, bona fide contributor to the BBC. PRESENTER: And, in terms of news and current affairs, he wasn't. JOBBINS: Well, with hindsight we know he wasn't at all. PRESENTER: So was your editor conned? JOBBINS: I think that, under the pressure of putting together a weekly programme, he, having made what he thought of as being reasonable checks, I think he, um, there was certainly a degree of misrepresentation, whether it was deliberate or not I can't tell you, but the producer thought he was dealing with somebody who was a journalist, and it turns out he was dealing with somebody who was a journalist but who had connections with the RAF. PRESENTER: But the programme is called From Our Own Correspondent. The public therefore assumes that the people on that programme are your correspondents, and in this case, they were misled. JOBBINS: Yes, that's a bit more rigorous than I would be. I would say that the strength of the programme, the heart of the programme is contributions from staff correspondents. I would say that legitimately within the programme we from time to time have used contributors who aren't staff correspondents. A good example might be somebody like Andy Kershaw, who did a couple of pieces for us a few years back from Africa, and they were very good too, so the issue really is, not is he, or was he, a BBC correspondent, but was it appropriate for him to do this particular story? I would just say, no, you shouldn't use a non-correspondent for a story which is that sensitive. PRESENTER: But he isn't just a non-correspondent. He is, we understand, someone who has links with the British armed services, which were in part the subject of his report. Do you believe that to be the case? JOBBINS: It is true that he has acknowledged to the programme's producer that he was working for the armed forces in a capacity at that time. But that was never signalled to the programme producer prior to transmission. PRESENTER: So in future will your checks have to be more rigorous? JOBBINS: Well, we've already established a number of additional precautions in light of this particular experience. It must be said that, you know, hindsight's a great thing, I'm a great believer in it, it's a wonderful tool, but the reality is we've never been duped before, and I don't, it's not an excuse, but um, Mike's been producing, Mike Problem's been producing, this programme for twelve, maybe fifteen years. He's never had this experience before, and certainly I've never had this complaint before. PRESENTER: Shall we turn from that, from the person who made the report, to the content of the report, because some of our listeners believe that, irrespective of who wrote and delivered the piece, it shouldn't have been transmitted because, in Richard Pond's words, he thought it was 'out-and-out propaganda'. Do you think it was a fair and objective piece of reporting? JOBBINS: No. The programme producer in hindsight made a mistake, (a) in commissioning the piece, and (b) on seeing it, using it. And nobody has any problem with it, the programme producer acknowledges that, and we've looked at why it happened, and, you know, and, sort of, if you like, his, his mitigation for it, and I'm satisfied that it was a mistake which started off with, if you like, an error of judgement, but it was an error of judgement which was made in good faith. Somebody said they were something which it turns out subsequently they weren't that but far more, and secondly because of a sequence of, if you like, events - the, the, the piece was run when, with hindsight, and using common sense, you'd say, that piece did not meet our editorial guidelines. Certainly, it gave us pause for thought, and we've already put in place pretty, you know, clear guidelines to make absolutely sure it can't happen again. PRESENTER: And Tim Buckley, one of our correspondents, wants to know, are you prepared to offer some sort of right to reply to, in his view, redress the balance? JOBBINS: Well, I think the balance has been significantly redressed anyway. I mean, not within this particular programme obviously, although the subsequent edition did carry a piece from within Iraq which gave a much richer picture of the story. In terms of the, if you like, specifically inaccurate statements made in the piece, they were very rapidly corrected within our general news output, as that information became available. Anyone who listened to the World Service across that few days would be in no doubt at all what the situation was. PRESENTER: Do you think this was damaging to From Our Own Correspondent and to the BBC World Service's reputation? JOBBINS: Any mistake you make, um, damages your reputation. I think, however, you have to see it in the context of thousands of hours of output each month, and against a record, perhaps even of this individual programme - it's both extremely popular with the audience and also with the correspondents. It, I think, gives, 99.9% of the time, a remarkably interesting perspective on world events. PRESENTER: Bob Jobbins, director of news for the English services of the World Service. A spokesman for the MOD [Ministry of Defence] told us: 'Howard Leader made the broadcast mistakenly believing he had our permission. Filing such a report was inappropriate, as he was on duty with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in a private capacity.' -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk