BBC sorry over Primark documentary
The BBC will apologise to fashion chain Primark after an investigation found an award-winning Panorama programme about the firm "more likely than not" included faked footage of child labour.
A report by the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee found a 45-second-long clip said to show three boys in a workshop in Bangalore, India, testing stitching in Primark clothes should not have been included in the 2008 hour-long special called Primark: On The Rack.
It states the "activity being carried out by the boys in the Bangalore footage did not appear to the committee to be genuine", but noted the programme did find "clear evidence" Primark's own ethical guidelines had been breached.
The report continues: "The committee considered there was not one piece of irrefutable and conclusive evidence which would enable it to say for certain (i.e. beyond reasonable doubt) whether the footage was or was not staged. However, the committee was not required to reach a view beyond reasonable doubt in order to determine the appeal. Having carefully scrutinised all of the relevant evidence, the committee concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the Bangalore footage was not authentic."
Committee chairman Alison Hastings said the programme had failed to meet "the highest standards of accuracy". She added: "While it's important to recognise 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."
A Primark spokesman said the BBC announcement was "extraordinary". He said: "Millions of people have been deceived by Panorama. Viewers who watched the programme, shoppers who were then fed the lie, sourcing experts who believed the lie, teachers and pupils who viewed the programme in lessons, have all been badly let down."
But the journalist who filmed the disputed footage said he "vigorously" rejected the findings. Dan McDougall said: "I have rarely seen a finding so unjust in outcome, flawed in process and deeply damaging to independent investigative journalism. In the BBC Trust's own words, there is not 'one piece of irrefutable and conclusive evidence' to support the allegation the sequence in the programme had been staged.
"The BBC Trust claims investigative journalism should remain at the heart of the BBC news but what this verdict demonstrates is that it judges journalists on the balance of probability rather than fact."
An 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.