UK

BBC Apologises Over Bungled Help for Heroes Report On Newsnight

16/05/2013 13:49 BST | Updated 16/05/2013 13:57 BST

The BBC has apologised for another bungled report on flagship current affairs programme Newsnight which mistakenly accused charity Help for Heroes of misspending cash.

A report to be published later on Thursday by the BBC's editorial complaints unit will say there was no evidence to suggest any shortcomings. The BBC has conceded the coverage was "misleading" and "unfair" to the charity which helps military personnel.

BBC2's Newsnight has already been under fire for dropping a report into disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile's years of sex crimes.

This was compounded, at a time when the corporation was already in crisis, by the mistaken suggestion that Lord McAlpine had been linked to a sex abuse probe. That slur led to legal action and the BBC paid out £185,000 in damages to the peer.

The broadcast about Help for Heroes, screened on 9 August, involved the services of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which was also behind the Lord McAlpine report.

The BBC has admitted that editing of the report into the charity misrepresented the views of two contributors, and in a studio discussion afterwards in which a charity representative took part, the response of Help for Heroes to the criticisms "wasn't properly reflected".

The editor of Newsnight at the time, Peter Rippon, has already stepped down as a result of the other problems. A report by media executive Nick Pollard has already looked into the BBC's failings over the Savile and Lord McAlpine problems.

Newsnight will tonight broadcast an apology about its Help for Heroes report, saying: "Following an investigation by its Editorial Complaints Unit, the BBC now accepts that its coverage was misleading and unfair to Help for Heroes.

"The BBC gave the impression that Help for Heroes was responsible for shortcomings in the provision of support to wounded veterans. The Editorial Complaints Unit found no evidence to support this suggestion.

"Although it was legitimate to report the concerns of veterans, the BBC portrayed criticisms about overall support by a number of agencies as specific criticisms of Help for Heroes. This unfair impression was reinforced by our coverage of the story in other outlets.

"In addition, the Newsnight report contained interviews with two contributors which were edited in a way which misrepresented their views.

"Although a representative of Help for Heroes took part in a studio discussion which followed the Newsnight report, the response of Help for Heroes to the criticisms wasn't properly reflected. This contributed further to the unfair impression of Help for Heroes, for which the BBC wishes to apologise."

The BBC also announced the appointment of a new editor for Newsnight, with Guardian journalist Ian Katz taking over the role.

Mr Katz, currently deputy editor of the newspaper, will begin his new job in September.

Karen O'Connor has been acting editor of Newsnight since November. The programme's deputy editor, Jamie Angus, will step up to act as editor until Mr Katz takes over.

Mr Angus will then move to Radio 4's Today programme, which won the breakfast show of the year title at the Sony Awards this week.

Mr Katz said: "I'm incredibly excited to be joining a programme I've watched and loved all my adult life. It's had serious and well-publicised problems over the last year, but I'm looking forward to working with the hugely talented team to make it once again the world's most intelligent, sophisticated and exciting news programme."

Fran Unsworth, acting director of news at the BBC said: "I'm delighted to be welcoming Ian to the BBC and to announce Jamie as the new editor of the Today programme.

"Their journalistic pedigree speaks for itself. They will bring to two of Britain's most influential news and current affairs programmes all the judgement, news sense and innovation we need."