The BBC Newsnight programme broadcast a film in which an individual claimed they had been sexually abused by a prominent Tory MP of the time, but no names were mentioned. Speculation elsewhere, mostly online but not exclusively, led to an individual being named. Newsnight & the BBC have been hauled over the coals for ‘shoddy journalism’ & the Director General has done the ‘honourable thing’ and resigned. But if Newsnight didn’t name anyone, what did they do wrong? Surely they just reported the allegations which had been made by an individual.
This morning the BBC reported via Twitter:
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) November 15, 2012
Then this afternoon they updated this to include the name of an individual. [I’m not posting the name of the individual or a link to the story for legal reasons]
If the BBC were wrong to broadcast allegations of sexual abuse by a prominent Tory (even though they didn’t name him), how is it right that they can broadcast an individual’s name, whose arrest alleges that they are involved in a similar scandal?
A current headline on the BBC News website has inverted commas around part of the story: Savile police ‘arrest [individual]’. Surely that can’t be enough save themselves from further legal problems? If so, will it also work for Newsnight reporters on-screen to use ‘air quotes’ around slightly dodgy journalism?
The big issue in the former case has been the damage to the individual’s reputation caused by the allegations. Does the same not also apply to reporting the arrest of another individual for similar ‘offences’ (see what I did there). Are we not innocent until proven guilty?
I’m pretty sure I must have missed an obvious point somewhere. Can anyone shed any light for me?