BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Saturday, 24 April 2010


My complaint...
Whenever David Cameron is interviewed by Andrew Marr, Mr Marr concentrates on asking him about Conservative cuts, yet when Gordon Brown was on this Sunday Andrew Marr did not ask him about cuts at all.

For months now, Conservative politicians have faced questions from Mr Marr about cuts. Why didn't he ask the Labour leader about what cuts he will make, how much will be cut from each spending department, how many jobs will be lost as a consequence?

Why does Andrew Marr seem to want to connect the idea of 'cuts' just with the Conservatives rather than with Labour?

The interview with Gordon Brown lasted 25 minutes. There was time.

...elicited this response...
Dear Mr

Thanks for your e-mail about 'The Andrew Marr Show' shown on 18 April.

I understand that you feel that Andrew Marr consistently asks David Cameron about Conservative cuts when he appears on the show, but you believe he didn't ask Gordon Brown the same questions about Labour cuts when he was a guest on the show on 18 April. I note that you believe that Andrew seems to be trying to connect the idea of cuts with the Conservative Party rather than the Labour Party.

We've raised your concerns with the Editor of 'The Andrew Marr Show' and he's provided the following response:

"Senior Labour politicians have been asked about cuts - and tax rises - on the Marr show over the past few months. The truth is there will be budget cuts whoever is in power after the election.
It is also true that David Cameron has said that Labour's plans for reducing planned spending and working to reduce the deficit were inadequate and that a Conservative government would implement reductions "faster and deeper".

Being even handed and applying the same rigorous approach to each party does not mean asking each politician the same questions. For instance the issue in the first debate where Gordon Brown provided answers that were least appreciated by those polled afterwards - the area where all the indications are that he performed least well compared to his two fellow leaders - was on the producers decided that they would begin the interview with Gordon Brown with this topic. There would not be a similar reason to choose the same topic with David Cameron whose responses on this subject met with more popular approval."

We do appreciate your taking the time to express your concerns and so please be assured that I've registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to contact us.


L....... B........
BBC Complaints


  1. Are any figures available from Mr Chris Summers' (ex) colleagues at the BBC Election Complaints Department on

    1) How many complaints they uphold.

    2) What is the breakdown of Complaints on anti-Tory / anti-Labour bias?

    3) Why is there never a reference number generated or automated reply sent when complaints are emailed via their website?

    4) When they advise complainants their complaint has been "logged", why is there never a reference number given?

    When the election is over I'm going to have to send this information request via the BBC website and advise them of the Conservative MPs (and maybe by then the Hon Nigel Farage MP as well?) I have copied it to and that I look forward to sending them a copy of their reply within 15 days.

  2. Good questions all.

    The answer to the first I suspect will be a small number.

    An automated reference number/reply is hardly something that's difficult to install. If my place of work can manage it I'm sure the Beeb should be able to manage it too.

    They used to give reference numbers when they advised you that your claim had been logged but that practice seemed to have stopped a couple of months ago, for some strange reason.

  3. Team, sorry -- I should have posted my reply from the BBC Poliical Adviser. He is the top man on politics at the BBC. It 'answers' some of your questions. Re: Andrew Marr, I suggest you email barnaby jones, the ex producer directly in future rather then get the run around with the complaints dept.

    Here's Ric Bailey's response re: Summers which I got earlier in the week.

    ate: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 23:26:44 +0100
    > From:
    > Dear Mr
    > Thank you for your email.
    > This is the statement which the BBC has put out on this matter:
    > "Chris Summers, who normally works on the UK news desk for the BBC News
    > website, was given alternative duties whilst being a candidate in the
    > election, in keeping with BBC guidelines. His brief has been to keep the
    > database of constituency profile pages up to date by processing newly
    > published stories and correcting factual inaccuracies. He is not
    > responsible for dealing with complaints or other editorial issues. These
    > are dealt with by senior editorial staff."
    > I can assure you that I dealt personally with this matter more than a
    > month ago, when Mr Summers declared his candidacy. Our guidelines on
    > this are straightforward and Mr Summers was moved away from his normal
    > editorial responsibilities. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, he
    > has now been redeployed, not only away from editorial responsibilities,
    > but separate from anything relating to the election.
    > The guidelines also state that anyone standing as a candidate will only
    > return to their substantive role after the election if that does not
    > present a risk to the BBC's impartiality. Again, that is a management
    > judgement subject to my advice.
    > To answer your questions directly:
    > - anyone standing as a candidate is obliged to inform their line
    > manager, who informs me. That is what happened in this case.
    > - as stated, Mr Summers has not been answering complaints, so there is
    > no need to review or reopen any responses.
    > BBC staff are not prevented from standing as candidates in elections.
    > However, those (particularly in news and current affairs) who are in
    > editorially sensitive positions, or in senior roles, are moved elsewhere
    > once they are selected as candidates. Parliamentary candidates are
    > obliged to take unpaid leave during the campaign. Successful
    > Parliamentary candidates are required to resign. Staff who are not in
    > editorially sensitive or senior roles can stand as candidates in local
    > elections and serve, if elected, subject to a rigourous assessment of
    > any potential risk to the BBC's impartiality.
    > In conclusion, we take impartiality very seriously, especially during
    > elections. We recognise the seriousness of this incident but it would
    > not be appropriate to comment further on discussions with an individual
    > member of staff.
    > Yours sincerely
    > Ric Bailey
    > Chief Political Adviser

  4. Oh, 'L... B...' .. Liam Boyle by any chance?

  5. Ah no, this L....B.... is a Leanne.

  6. I'd be interested in the response if you swapped Cameron with Brown in the above email.

  7. Ryan, doesn't exactly answer the issue why Chris Summers declared on Facebook 21 February he was a Labour candidate and why he announced on Facebook 13th April he had been assigned to deal with election complaints. Mr Bailey's claims just dont add up.

    Furthermore, I read Robin Aitken's book 'Can we Trust the BBC' and I'm sure I recall some beebo been given twice as long as he was entitled too off from work to campaign as a Lib Dem candidate and it was paid.

  8. Eric Bailey's predecessor in the role of the BBC's Chief Political Adviser was David Jordan, who stepped down in December 2005 to assume the role of the BBC's Head of Editorial Policy and Standards.

    I had correspondence with Mr Jordan when he was producer of 'On the Record' in the mid 90's, a political programme that reached standards of breathtaking bias. In the course of our correspondence I requested Mr Jordan gave me a breakdown of figures for complaints for anti-Tory and anti-Labour bias. He claimed that the BBC didn't have resources to compile such statistics.

    No wonder Chris Summers didn't take Mr Jordan's Editorial Guidelines on impartiality in the least bit seriously.

  9. I also emailed Mr Jordan about this Hippiepooter and he deferred to Mr Bailey. Yes, I agree he didnt answer the questions perfectly. There's still ambiguity.


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