A BBC report that focused on Jeremy Corbyn’s views on a shoot-to-kill policy breached accuracy guidelines, according to a provisional decision by a watchdog.
However, the "drafted finding" by the BBC Trust to uphold complaints against the News at Six item by Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg is now being looked at “afresh” following feedback from the BBC.
It is understood part of the reason for the review is that Ms Kuenssberg was not spoken to by the Trust during its probe. No final decision has been reached.
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Ms Kuenssberg, a Glaswegian, has been BBC political editor since 2015 and was last year named as journalist of the year at the Press Gazette's British Journalism Awards.
In November 2015, she reported on the UK Government’s proposed security enhancements following the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, part of which included a clip from an interview with Mr Corbyn.
According to a BBC Trust document, Ms Kuenssberg said in the news report that she had asked Mr Corbyn whether, if he was the resident at Number Ten, he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack.
The clip showed Mr Corbyn responding: “I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive. I think you have to have security that prevents people firing off weapons where you can."
However, a viewer complained to the Trust - the final stage of the BBC complaints process - that the question in the fuller interview with Mr Corbyn was “substantively different” to the one Ms Kuenssberg paraphrased in the news report.
The question in the longer interview that elicited Mr Corbyn’s response was: “But if you were Prime Minister, would you be happy to order people - police or military - to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”
Picture: Mr Corbyn during the interview with Ms Kuenssberg
In a report, the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) concluded: “He [Corbyn] was asked about “shoot-to-kill” and he gave an answer about his views on “shoot-to-kill”, but in the News at Six piece it was presented as him not supporting armed engagement in an ongoing hostage situation – a scenario that was not put to him.” The ESC upheld the complaint as a breach of accuracy.
The viewer also complained that the same news report wrongly presented Mr Corbyn as opposing the Government’s security measures.
The ESC concluded: “The Committee decided there was a significant difference between what Mr Corbyn said and what the report inferred. This had led to a failure of due accuracy.”
Trustees concluded there was “no evidence of any intent to deceive or distort”, but the report stated: “Trustees considered that the effect of the failures to observe due accuracy had, on this occasion, also resulted in a failure of impartiality.”
The Trust then supplied the relevant parties with a copy of the “drafted finding” and asked for comments on accuracy and process. The finding was due to be published on November 30th, but the BBC requested more time to respond.
On December 16th, the complainant received an email from the Trust: “I am writing to inform you of the decision of the Chairman of the ESC.
“He reviewed your comments and those by [BBC] News….He has decided that in the interests of fairness to the political editor the ESC will consider the decision afresh again in January in the light of comments by yourself and by News.”
The complaint was initially rejected by BBC management and an appeal was then lodged with the Trust.
A spokesperson for the BBC Trust said: “We don’t comment on any leaked appeal ahead of its publication. This finding isn’t finalised yet and will be published following the next Editorial Standards Committee meeting.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “BBC News does not accept the assertions made and the complaint has been rejected on four separate occasions already.
“The Trust has not published a finding regarding this appeal and BBC News has further evidence it is still to present this month before that happens.”
The spokesperson said Ms Kuenssberg would not be providing comment.