BBC breached Ofcom rules with Alex Salmond report

Ofcom has ruled the BBC breached ‘broadcast standards’ with a report on Alex Salmond last year, due to a ‘significant’ mistake. 

The media watchdog launched an investigation into a segment on BBC News At Six which aired on February 26 hosted by Sophie Raworth. 

During a live report from Holyrood, the BBC’s former Scotland editor Sarah Smith inaccurately said Mr Salmond had called for Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister of Scotland at a parliamentary committee.

Smith said: ‘Alex Salmond said he believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the Ministerial Code, which he thinks means she should resign.’ 

However, Mr Salmond had not called for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation and had told the inquiry that he had no doubt that Ms Sturgeon had broken the Ministerial Code, but added ‘it is not for me to suggest what the consequences should be’. 

The BBC accepted the news report was ‘not duly accurate’ and said it had taken what it considered to be ‘appropriate action to mitigate the error’. 

Smith did not correct herself during the programme but tweeted later: ‘I would like to clarify that Mr Salmond did not say that the First Minister should resign.’ 

The corporation also acknowledged the error on the BBC’s corrections and clarifications website alongside a summary of action being taken, and made clear on the BBC News At 10 programme that Mr Salmond had stopped short of calling for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.

However, on Monday, Ofcom ruled the corporation was in breach of ‘broadcast standards’ because they failed to acknowledge and correct the mistake on-air.

In a statement, Ofcom said: ‘News must be reported with due accuracy.

‘We are absolutely committed to transparency around complaints and we always seek to correct any issues as swiftly as possible.

‘We will reflect on the findings and, of course, if there is more we can do to explain how we make our judgments on complaints then we will look at that.’

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What is Ofcom and what does it cover?

Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.

The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.

Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.

Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.

The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.

This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.

Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.

If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.

An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.

Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.

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