Template complaint letter to the BBC
From [Name, Address]
PO Box 1922
[Tel: 03700 100 222]
Complaint: Crimewatch, BBC TV, 9.00pm, Monday 14 October 2013: Inaccurate and misleading information
On 7 October, a former Police Superintendent wrote a letter to the producer, editor and the three main presenters of ‘Crimewatch’, urging the BBC to abandon the programme because, on the information available, it perpetuated the McCanns’ claim that Madeleine was abducted, when there is considerable evidence to the contrary.
I know that many others have also written to Crimewatch along similar lines. The former Superintendent’s letter has been widely circulated on the internet and can be found here: http://jillhavern.forumotion.net/t7942-open-letter-re-proposed-crimewatch-programme-14-october-2013-madeleine-mccann Please refer to it in considering my complaint.
As far as I am aware, no replies to any of these letters has been received. I agree with adopt the contents of the Superintendent’s letter.The BBC and the Crimewatch Team must be aware of all the following:
1. That the McCanns were pulled in for questioning on 7 September 2007
2. That they were then made suspects of involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine
3. That when the investigation was shelved by the Portuguese judicial authorities, the conclusion was that although there was insufficient evidence to charge any one person with a crime, both possibilities: (a) abduction and (b) hiding Madeleine’s body were options for further investigation if there was ‘new and credible’ evidence
4. That a powerful case that Madeleine’s body was hidden by her parents was set out in a book published by the former Portuguese investigation co-ordinator, Goncalo Amaral, in July 2008
5. That that book is now on sale in over 30 countries, and has been freely available for sale in Portugal since an Appeal Court ruling in October 2010, and is widely available in a translation on the internet, despite expensive efforts by the McCanns to suppress it
6. That even a cursory acquaintance with the Portuguese police files reveals a catalogue of contradictions between witness statements, changes of story, a parent (Kate McCann) who refused to answer any questions put to her about Madeleine in an interview, and the fact that none of the McCanns and their friends was willing to attend a police reconstruction of the actual events claimed to have taken place on the day Madeleine was reported missing
7. That the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance remains a subject of huge controversy with a great many British people doubting the McCanns’ version of events.
In addition, you would have known – and fully understood from the Police Superintendent’s letter – that the claims of Jane Tanner of having seen a man carrying a child were strongly suspected by the Portuguese police of having been fabricated, from the first week of their investigation. The McCanns supported her claims and have consistently urged the public to accept them, even to the extent of front-page coverage of a sketch of this man with no face, made available to the public nearly six months after Madeleine’s reported disappearance, rendering it virtually useless (as has proved to be the case).
The BBC Charter outlines the following principles:
1.2.1 Trust “Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest. We are committed to achieving the highest standards of due accuracy and impartiality and strive to avoid knowingly and materially misleading our audiences”.
1.2.2 Truth and Accuracy “We seek to establish the truth of what has happened and are committed to achieving due accuracy in all our output. Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth. Our output, as appropriate to its subject and nature, will be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language. We will strive to be honest and open about what we don't know and avoid unfounded speculation”.
1.2.3 Impartiality “Impartiality lies at the core of the BBC's commitment to its audiences. We will apply due impartiality to all our subject matter and will reflect a breadth and diversity of opinion across our output as a whole, over an appropriate period, so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented. We will be fair and open-minded when examining evidence and weighing material facts”.
1.2.6 Serving the Public Interest We seek to report stories of significance to our audiences. We will be rigorous in establishing the truth of the story and well informed when explaining it. Our specialist expertise will bring authority and analysis to the complex world in which we live. We will ask searching questions of those who hold public office and others who are accountable, and provide a comprehensive forum for public debate.
1.2.7 Fairness Our output will be based on fairness, openness, honesty and straight dealing. Contributors and audiences will be treated with respect.
1.2.10 Transparency We will be transparent about the nature and provenance of the content we offer online. Where appropriate, we will identify who has created it and will use labelling to help online users make informed decisions about the suitability of content for themselves and their children.
1.2.11 Accountability We are accountable to our audiences and will deal fairly and openly with them. Their continuing trust in the BBC is a crucial part of our relationship with them. We will be open in acknowledging mistakes when they are made and encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them.
However, one principle above all seems to apply to this case:
1.2.4 Editorial Integrity and Independence The BBC is independent of outside interests and arrangements that could undermine our editorial integrity. Our audiences should be confident that our decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.
Against that background and, many other similar considerations, the BBC Crimewatch Team should have been very wary of damaging their excellent reputation by getting sucked into a programme which has all the hallmarks of having been produced to support the McCanns’ account of events, while ignoring all the evidence that contradicts it.
Meticulous research would need to be undertaken. Claims by DCI Redwood that he had ‘evidence’ which was ‘genuinely new and substantial’, and has been described in the British media over recent weeks as ‘very significant’, ’shattering’ ‘a breakthrough’ and even ‘a revelation’, would need to be carefully evaluated.
Before the Crimewatch broadcast, many BBC trailers, on-the-record statements by DCI Andy Redwood of Operation Grange and countless newspaper articles asserted that the elaborate account of events given by the McCanns and their friends is ‘wrong’. DCI Redwood is therefore suggesting that over the past six years, the public in the UK, Portugal and the rest of the world has been misled by the McCanns and their friends. Trailers of the programme suggested that the sighting of Jane Tanner should now be discounted – exactly as Goncalo Amaral and his team believed was the case as soon as they heard her rambling and confused tale.
During the programme transmitted on 14 October, a purported reconstruction of events was shown. Computerised e-fit pictures were shown of a number of ‘persons of interest’, described as people ‘who could be of vital importance’ to the Scotland Yard enquiry. Yet DCI Redwood also conceded that he was ‘not sure if they were the key to unlocking this mystery’. A US former prosecutor and now child advocate, Wendy Murphy, openly told millions watching Fox News on 10 October that in her professional opinion, Scotland Yard were involved in promoting ‘a fake suspect’. Indeed, she ridiculed both Scotland Yard and the BBC for proceeding with this Crimewatch project which she said was all about ‘a non-existent suspect’.
The McCanns through their various private investigations have over the past six years promoted at least 21 different persons as ‘suspects’ or ‘persons of interest’, two of them women. Yet the Crimewatch programme gave the public no indication as to whether the public should now still be looking for any of those 21 people, or not.
During the programme on 14 October, I noted the following material which was either inaccurate or misleading:
[TO BE COMPLETED]
The BBC Charter and editorial guidelines to programme producers and editors repeatedly emphasise the solemn duty to inform viewers and not mislead them or give out inaccurate information.
I would like you to investigate every aspect of how this inaccurate, misleading and grossly over-hyped programme ever came to be produced, what research and fact-checking was done, the extent to which the McCanns influenced the content or were even involved in the making of the programme, and why the programme went out on14 October after the obvious problems about it were exposed in the Police Superintendent’s letter of 7 October and subsequently by many others.
"WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER" - Rebekah Brooks to David Cameron
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