Friday, 25 March 2011
ROYAL TELEVISION SOCIETY DEFENDS BIASED JOURNALISM
Letter to RTS, sent 24 January 2011 09:35
Subject: Channel Television Story Of The Year Award
I am writing to you to enquire about the process of television awards.
I am very concerned about the decision to award Channel Television an accolade for Story Of The Year in the Regional Television Awards. The programme, which dwelt on what they dubbed the Expenses Scandal set out to prove that the police involved in the original investigation at Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, had wasted millions of pounds in personal expenses was unbalanced and biased, and was little more than propaganda. The programme was highly selective in the materiel evidence chosen, and in the choice of people who were invited to contribute, and there was no contribution from the people who were accused of misconduct by the program makers, none of them had been invited to put their version of events forward. There was no mention, for example, that the Senior Investigating Officer, Leonard Harper, received death threats whilst working on the case, and was also unlawfully obstructed whilst trying to conduct the investigation.
This is not only poor journalism, but due to the serious nature of the offences committed at Haut de la Garenne, should this program be found to be a malicious attempt to try to whitewash serious crimes committed at Haut de la Garenne, the programme could be construed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice, and the people responsible for making the programme could find themselves in court accused of being accessories to criminal activity. To summarise, not only does giving out unmerited awards discredit the whole awards system, in this case it could actually be a criminal offence, if it is part of a deliberate and malicious attempt to pervert the course of justice and cover up serious crimes.
Therefore, I am asking that you look at this decision again, with a view to withdrawing this award. I would like to know the names of the people who nominated and seconded this program for an award.
I intend to write to OFCOM about this issue, and to forward this letter to my MP.
Reply from David Lowen, Honorary Secretary, RTS, sent 24/03/2011
Dear Ms Richards,
RTS DEVON AND CORNWALL CENTRE BEST SINGLE NEWS ITEM AWARD
I write in response to your comments on the suitability of the above award to a Channel TV news report on the occasion of the publication of an official report by Wiltshire Police into aspects of police conduct in relation to allegations about abuse at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey.
In providing this response, I have taken statements from the Chairman of the Society’s Devon and Cornwall Centre, from the Managing Director of Broadcasting at Channel TV and have, with colleagues, viewed the news item within the context of the programme in which it appeared. The judges of the news category in the awards were professionally qualified to review the quality of television news and programmes.
I can understand that there are those who may have reservations about the facts, opinions and conclusions of the official report. Clearly, I am not able to, nor would I wish to involve myself, the RTS or the professional judges in that.
We must distinguish between the contents of the Wiltshire Police report and the contents of the Channel TV report about the Wiltshire Police report. What we need to establish is whether there was any distortion in the way that Channel TV reported the publication such that it should disqualify Channel TV from receiving an award for the quality of its journalism.
In the opinion of the judges and my review, the TV report set out clearly the findings of the report by Wiltshire Police and gave full and fair opportunity for the findings to be put in context by reporting the views of those people who found it misguided.
The opinions presented were not those of Channel TV but those of the main protagonists. The job of the news item was to convey those facts and views in the manner of a news report. The judges agreed that the news report had clarified for viewers a complex set of circumstances set out by Wiltshire Police.
As such, it was high quality journalism and the award was, in the opinion of the judges, worthy of the award. I endorse that decision.
Honorary Secretary, RTS