A victory of sorts


I case you don't remember, a couple of months ago I took issue with the BBC over something very minor – the way they were displaying the telephone number for people wanting to take part in John Barrowman's godawful variety show. I know it sounds petty, but why show numbers wrongly when it's so easy to show them correctly?

The BBC replied to me with an out-and-out lie. They said that they displayed numbers in an easy-to-remember format, even though this meant the numbers were actually wrong. If that were true, there would've been research to prove it: hand it over. They ignored me, so I submitted a freedom of information request to get the research. After much searching, the BBC came back: there is no research (surprise!). So I complained to the BBC Trust.

At last I feel the BBC has listened to me. The reply shows that, for once, the BBC read my complaint rather than scanning it and assuming the contents. They admit that BBC Complaints isn't up to the job at the moment and needs reform. I suspect the problem is that most complaints are from out-and-our ranting nutjobs with an agenda to push or an axe to grind. Actual complaints from the relatively sane are getting buried under these mad ones and BBC Complaints is treating all comments like they're coming from Scientologists, internet conspiracy theorists and members of the Tory right. So reform is due and it probably needs them to step back from giving personalised but wrong replies and instead go back to the old system they used in the 1970s — pre-printed cards reading "Dear ______ Thank you for your comment, which the Director General was pleased to receive. Yours sincerely, <BBC manager>" — for the nutters, since no reply will satisfy a nutter, and personal responses for those asking serious questions or for general information.

My faith in the BBC is thus restored to a degree. I still don't like that the knee-jerk, gut reaction was to tell a lie. But I'm willing to trust the Trust to work on that. I'll still keep an eye open for the BBC telling lies in its editorial output — these things don't happen in isolation, they get into the culture — but I'm pleased that a bit of the BBC, of my??BBC, our BBC, the best broadcaster in the world, is on the case.

One comment

  1. The BBC Trust is the only and only good thing to come out of the Gilligan/WMD fiasco, allowing much of the right to sleep soundly in their beds knowing that the BBC has an external regulator with teeth, as well as giving the rest of us some assurances that Thompson and his motley crew aren’t spiriting away the licence fee on management consultancy seminars. Ofcom could never be given the job of wholly regulating the BBC because it would have to openly discriminate between allowing BSKyB and ITV to do what they please and not allowing the BBC to do likewise.

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