27 September 2013

BBC Scotland: the challenge that never was

by Gordon James | Guest Contributor

There have been many stories and issues since Jim Spence decided to air his old club new club thoughts on BBC Radio Scotland. One that was prevalent was the BBC in Scotland were unhappy and were preparing or had indicated that they were setting a course to challenge The Trust.

BBC Trust, via BBC Scotland stories, appeared in Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s blog on September 8: “I understand that the BBC Trust are also in their sights and the BEEB in Scotland are not happy at how the Sevco case was handled by them.”

And also here by Stephen Lepitak in The Drum on September 10th: “It's also understood that BBC Scotland will oppose a ruling by the BBC Trust that they breached accuracy guidelines in reporting the financial collapse of Rangers Football Club in 2012.”

Having done an article on the BBC Trust ruling, and having taken a look at the people on the board, how the Trust operates and where they sit within the BBC hierarchy, it seemed to me that a challenge like this would be an extraordinary one with seismic repercussions. So I decided to again contact The Trust and here is the questions asked and the answers given by John Hamer of the BBC Trust unit.

Q: Can a trust decision be challenged by a BBC department?

A: The Trust is the final arbiter in the BBC complaints process and their decision is final.

Q; Can a trust decision be challenged by a judicial review?

A:  Yes.

Q: Can I ask how many times the Trust have had a decision subjected to a judicial review if this is the case?

A: One. The Scottish National Party asked for a judicial review of a complaint about the televised Prime Ministerial debate in 2010, however, the challenge was withdrawn after an initial hearing

Q: Can I ask if a BBC department has ever "appealed" a Trust ruling or went down the judicial review route?

A: No. The BBC are obliged to accept the Trust’s findings. A BBC department has never sought a judicial review of a Trust decision.

For me it must have been abundantly clear to BBC Scotland that this was (as John Hamer says) a decision they are obligated to abide by. It then begs the question where on earth did Stephen Lepitak get this information from? 

Surely he has not published this on the input of one of his staff writers with a close affiliation to Phil, Angela Haggerty or on Phil’s say so? 

One does wonder.

Don't forget that back in August 2012, the CRO got the response of: "Our position...is that Rangers will be referred to as Rangers" from the BBC in an email exchange which you can view here.