Entertainment & Arts

Primark 'welcomes' BBC apology ruling over Panorama

Primark
Image caption Primark has "welcomed the decision"

The BBC must make an on-air apology to Primark over a scene in a Panorama documentary - Primark: On The Rack, showing three boys in a Bangalore clothing workshop, the BBC Trust says.

The trust, investigating a complaint by the clothing firm that the scene was not genuine, examined original tapes and witness evidence.

It said it was "more likely than not" that the scene, which showed the boys "testing the stitching" on Primark clothes, was "not genuine".

Primark has "welcomed the decision", saying the documentary was "based on fabrication and was littered with poor journalistic practices".

A statement said: "Panorama simply did not find child labour involved in the Primark supply chain as the programme sought to suggest but relied on fabricated footage to air a programme otherwise based on prejudice.

It added: "Panorama can be a fine maker of documentaries and, at its best, it is to be applauded, but the programme carries responsibilities which were disregarded. This lapse was compounded by the BBC's complaints process.

"It is now for others to decide what steps should be taken at the BBC. But Primark hopes that no other individual or company is again subjected to such deception and ill-treatment."

"Serious Beaches"

The BBC has admitted "serious breaches in its editorial procedures" adding that two previous internal BBC reports "similarly concluded that one 45-second sequence could not be authenticated".

Image caption Dan McDougall has called the BBC Trust's findings "unjust"

The apology will be broadcast on BBC One before or after an edition of Panorama at a date yet to be decided and will also be displayed on the front page of the Panorama website for a week.

The corporation added that, since the complaints process began three years ago in 2008: "The BBC has already made significant progress in tightening its procedures when it comes to filming in undercover situations.

"As a result of the ruling, the BBC will ensure that all staff involved in the making of the programme - and more generally staff involved in investigative reporting - understand their responsibilities when it comes to authenticating evidence."

Head of BBC News Helen Boaden said: "Anytime we make a big mistake it is very damaging but the BBC News brand and the Panorama brand are strong and robust; and they're strong and robust because we know that when we make a mistake, we own up to it and we learn from it and that's why our audiences trust us as much as they do."

However, journalist Dan McDougall - who filmed the footage - has called the BBC Trust's findings "unjust".

"I have rarely seen a finding so unjust in outcome, flawed in process and deeply damaging to independent investigative journalism.

"In the BBC Trust's own words, there is 'not one piece of irrefutable and conclusive evidence' to support the allegation that the sequence in the programme had been staged.

"The BBC Trust claims that investigative journalism should remain at the heart of the BBC News but what this verdict demonstrates is that it judges journalists on the balance of probability, rather than on fact."

In its report, the trust noted the programme "had obtained clear evidence that work was being outsourced from factories in India in contravention of Primark's own ethical trading principles".

David Thomson, from international aid agency World Vision, has supported the documentary-maker, saying the key concern was "that Panorama proved that Primark was breaking its own policies" and Primark should "seek to address its own processes which have been highlighted by the BBC".

"Primark is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water," he added.

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