The BBC Trust has re­leased its ‘find­ings’ af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Chris Pack­ham’s po­ten­tial breach of ed­i­to­rial guide­lines. Tim dis­cusses the dis­ap­point­ing but laugh­ably pre­dictable re­sult

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Over a year ago I wrote about an ar­ti­cle Chris Pack­ham wrote for BBC Wildlife mag­a­zine in which, amongst other things, he branded ev­ery­one in­volved in hunt­ing, shoot­ing and wildlife man­age­ment ‘the nasty bri­gade’. He had a record for this sort of be­hav­iour, hav­ing pre­vi­ously de­scribed farm­ers in­volved in the gov­ern­ment’s badger cull tri­als as “bru­tal­ist thugs, liars and frauds”. In the ar­ti­cle, I ar­gued that Chris Pack­ham, de­scribed by him­self and ev­ery­one else as a ‘BBC pre­sen­ter’, was abus­ing the po­si­tion given to him by the state broad­caster and was clearly in breach of the BBC ed­i­to­rial guide­lines.

How­ever, I also warned that once we had filed the com­plaint to the BBC, there would be the usual ex­cuses about con­tracted em­ploy­ees, and how Chris Pack­ham was not pre­sent­ing ‘at the mo­ment’.

The BBC went one step fur­ther by re­ject­ing the com­plaint be­fore it was even made by stat­ing in the me­dia that Mr Pack­ham was “en­ti­tled” to ex­press views out­side of his em­ploy­ment on BBC nat­u­ral his­tory pro­grammes. Af­ter both the Game and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust (GWCT) and our­selves lodged ap­peals on the BBC’s re­jec­tion, it was left to the BBC Trust to is­sue a re­sponse, which they dili­gently did at the end of Septem­ber.

The BBC Trust’s ‘find­ing’ is ex­tra­or­di­nary only in that it is such a bla­tant white­wash as to be ris­i­ble. It ruled that “the amount of time con­tracted and the amount of time on air did not make Mr Pack­ham a ‘reg­u­lar’ BBC Pre­sen­ter”, even though he worked on BBC pro­grammes for a regis­tered 119 days, or well over half the work­ing year, in 2015. This, ap­par­ently, means he is a ‘re­cur­rent’ BBC Pre­sen­ter not a ‘reg­u­lar’ one.

Fur­ther­more, the Trust de­cided that Mr Pack­ham was not “as­so­ci­ated with public pol­icy broad­cast­ing” any­way be­cause an in­ter­view with cam­paigner Ge­orge Mon­biot about the fu­ture of farm­ing in the up­lands and rewil­d­ing, for ex­am­ple, was an “aca­demic”, not a “pol­icy” dis­cus­sion. So it seems that, as Mr Pack­ham is not a BBC Pre­sen­ter at all, let alone one as­so­ci­ated with public pol­icy, he is free to take the BBC’s money and use their pub­lic­ity, while abus­ing who­ever he likes, which mostly seems to be the shoot­ing com­mu­nity.

I have of­ten men­tioned the fact that we are lucky to live in a lib­eral democ­racy where peo­ple are able to hold any num­ber of bizarre views. There is no is­sue with peo­ple voic­ing such opin­ions, but us­ing the po­si­tion granted by a public ser­vice broad­caster to pro­mote an ever more ex­treme agenda is a dif­fer­ent thing en­tirely. Ei­ther the BBC has rules and ap­plies them, or has

‘So it seems that, as Mr Pack­ham is not a BBC pre­sen­ter at all, he is free to use the BBC’s pub­lic­ity while abus­ing who­ever he likes’

no rules at all. What is en­tirely un­ac­cept­able is a per­verse in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those rules to pro­tect its ‘tal­ent’.

The Coun­try­side Al­liance (CA) feels strongly that the BBC should pro­vide a fair and im­par­tial ser­vice for all its cus­tomers, for we un­der­stand it is an is­sue close to the heart of many of our mem­bers. For this rea­son we held a de­bate on the fair­ness of the BBC at the re­cent Con­ser­va­tive Con­fer­ence in Birm­ing­ham. It was a heav­ily at­tended de­bate with strong views be­ing pressed by the panel, which in­cluded the MP for North Devon, Peter Heaton-Jones, and Mark Hedges, edi­tor of Coun­try Life mag­a­zine. Through­out the de­bate it was judged that the BBC is overly “squea­mish” about na­ture and is “un­der­serv­ing” the coun­try­side. Through­out the event there was a con­tin­ual urge for the BBC to prop­erly rep­re­sent the ru­ral com­mu­nity, some­thing that the CA con­tin­ues to lobby for.

Sadly, the find­ings from the de­bate, and the Chris Pack­ham debacle, shows that the BBC Trust has com­pre­hen­sively failed to ad­dress the con­cerns raised two years ago in its own re­view into ru­ral coverage, which found that the BBC has a “metropoli­tan bias”. The gov­ern­ment has now an­nounced plans, which we wel­come, to abol­ish the BBC Trust and move its reg­u­la­tory role to Of­com, and last week in a de­bate about the re­newal of the BBC Char­ter, cul­ture min­is­ter Matthew Han­cock also said the gov­ern­ment’s plans “made it clear that im­par­tial­ity and ac­cu­racy are ab­so­lutely cen­tral to the fu­ture role of the BBC”. We will hold him, and the BBC, to that com­mit­ment.

Farm­ers in­volved in the gov­ern­ment’s badger cull tri­als were de­scribed as “bru­tal­ist thugs, liars and frauds” by Chris Pack­ham

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