The BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, has told the UK broadcaster to apologize for errors in its Panorama doc about retail chain Primark and consider returning an Royal Television Society (RTS) award it picked up for the program.
The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) has found that a Panorama program entitled Primark: On the Rack, broadcast in June 2008, breached BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and fairness.
The program, which investigated the retail chain’s claims that it can deliver “cheap, fast fashion” without breaking ethical guidelines, included footage obtained in a Bangalore workshop of three boys carrying out an activity described in the program as “testing the stitching” on Primark garments.
The ESC examined a substantial body of material relating to the footage and concluded that, although it was not able to say beyond reasonable doubt that the footage was fake, it was more likely than not that the footage was not genuine.
Alison Hastings, BBC trustee and chair of the ESC, said: “The BBC’s investigative journalism is rightly held in very high regard, and for more than 50 years Panorama has made a very significant contribution to that.
“But great investigative journalism must be based on the highest standards of accuracy, and this program on Primark failed to meet those standards. While it’s important to recognize that the program did find evidence elsewhere that Primark was contravening its own ethical guidelines, there were still serious failings in the making of the program.”
The ESC has ordered for an apology to be broadcast on BBC1 at the beginning or end of a forthcoming Panorama program; an apology will also run on the Panorama website; and the program is not to be sold internationally or repeated.
In addition the ESC has requested that the BBC “considers its position” in connection with the RTS award which was given to the program in 2009.
The Trust has asked the broadcaster to report back on the lessons learned from this appeal by July 7.