BBC apologises to Primark

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The BBC will make an on-screen apology to fashion chain Primark after a report found it was “more likely than not” that it included faked footage of child labour in an edition of Panorama about the firm.

Primark: On The Rack, which was shown in June 2008, investigated whether the firm could make cheap clothing without breaking ethical guidelines and included footage said to show three boys in a Bangalore workshop testing stitching in Primark clothes.

Chairman of the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee Alison Hastings 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 programme on Primark failed to meet those standards.

“While it’s important to recognise that the programme did find evidence elsewhere that Primark was contravening its own ethical guidelines, there were still serious failings in the making of the programme.

“The Trust would like to apologise on behalf of the BBC to Primark and to the audience at home for this rare lapse in quality.”

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 committee ordered the BBC not to repeat or sell on the programme and not to show the disputed footage again apart from in coverage of this appeal.

It also asked “that the BBC Executive considers its position” in connection with a Royal Television Society Award which was given to the programme in 2009 and criticised the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) which it said had “placed the burden on Primark to prove its case in the complaint”.

Earlier this year, the corporation’s complaints procedure came under fire from its former chairman Lord Grade who described it as “a grisly experience”.

He told the House of Lords Communications Committee it needed an independent ombudsman, adding it had taken “months and months and months of grind” for him to resolve a complaint.

He said: “I thought to myself I’m a man that has been inside the BBC, I know how it works, I know the people that are dealing with this thing and I’m having a problem.

“Goodness knows, poor members of the public having to seek redress from the BBC when they don’t know how the system works, who to write to by name or anything. It’s hopeless, absolutely hopeless and it does a great institution no service at all and I think I would wholeheartedly support an ombudsman today.”

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