UK

BBC Trust Rules Laura Kuenssberg's Jeremy Corbyn Interview Was Inaccurate

But the broadcaster has defended her.

18/01/2017 13:06 GMT | Updated 18/01/2017 16:06 GMT

The BBC Trust has ruled an interview of Jeremy Corbyn by political editor Laura Kuenssberg on the News at Six breached accuracy and impartiality guidelines.

While the committee found no evidence of bias or a “deliberate attempt to mislead audiences”, the framing of a question on shoot-to-kill orders for British police “was not duly accurate”.

The BBC has disagreed with the findings and defended Kuenssberg.

PA
Corbyn (left) and Kuenssberg (right) 

In the report shown on the News at Six on 16 November 2015, Kuenssberg said she asked Corbyn whether, if he were Prime Minister, he would be happy for British police to shoot-to-kill in the event of an attack on UK soil, similar to the Paris attacks in 2015.

He responded: “I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive. I think you have to have security that prevents people firing off weapons where you can.”

A complaint was made to the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, alleging the full question, shown in a longer version of the interview published on the BBC News website, was “substantively different” to that paraphrased in the report.

Kuenssberg’s full question was: “But if you were Prime Minister, would you be happy to order people - police or military - to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”

The report states:

Trustees considered that the report dealt with a critical question at a time of extreme national concern. Consequently the audience would have an expectation that a scripted item on the BBC’s prime time television news programme on such a day would reflect with the greatest accuracy what the Leader of the Opposition had said on the matter. Trustees found that, according to this high standard, the report had not been duly accurate in how it framed the extract it used from Mr Corbyn’s interview.

 It concludes:

The Editorial Guidelines place a responsibility on the BBC to take particular care when a “controversial subject” might be considered to be a “major matter”. The standard of impartiality the BBC must achieve is therefore higher. The Committee considered that the attacks in Paris, and how Britain should prepare to respond to similar attacks if they were to happen here, were major matters of considerable importance, and in such circumstances the BBC had a particular duty to audiences to ensure the accuracy of the context in which politicians’ views are best understood by audiences. The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved this standard. As a consequence the Committee therefore decided, on balance, that the item was not duly impartial.

HuffPostUK revealed the day after the BBC report aired that Corbyn had been forced to ‘clarify’ his stance on the policy after heavy criticism from Labour MPs. 

James Harding, Director of BBC News, said: “While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding. 

“Laura is an outstanding journalist and Political Editor with the utmost integrity and professionalism. BBC News reported on the Leader of the Opposition in the same way it would any other politician.”

“It is striking that the Trust itself said there was ‘no evidence of bias’. Indeed, it also said the news report was ‘compiled in good faith’.

“The process is now concluded and BBC News formally notes the Trust’s finding.” 

The row over Kuenssberg’s coverage of Corbyn sparked a petition calling for her to be sacked from the BBC.

The person who started it was forced to remove it after the issue became toxic.

They said: “When I started my campaign I was trying to raise a serious issue about what I saw as a reporter not being balanced and fair in the way that the news was covered. My petition has since been hijacked by a group of people who absolutely do not share my views.

“I would like to reassure everyone that I am a passionate advocate for equality in all areas, not just gender equality. This petition has precisely zero to do with gender.

“As a result of the sexist trolls who have attempted to derail my petition, I have decided to take it down.”