Of­com up­holds farmer’s SNP ad com­plaint

● Man ap­peared with­out his knowl­edge in Na­tion­al­ists’ party po­lit­i­cal broad­cast

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By STU­ART MACDON­ALD

Of­comha­suphel­da­com­plaint about BBC Scot­land af­ter an SNP party po­lit­i­cal broad­cast was screened in which a farmer ap­peared with­out his knowl­edge.

John Shed­den said he agreed to take part in a “govern­ment pub­lic in­for­ma­tion film” but was left fu­ri­ous af­ter the footage pro­moted the Na­tion­al­ists.

Mr Shed­den, who farms at East Gar­leton Farm near Hadding­ton, East Loth­ian, com­plained as he claimed he was duped into ap­pear­ing in the SNP broad­cast aired by BBC Scot­land on 12 Oc­to­ber last year.

Reg­u­la­tor Of­com has now up­held a “fair­ness and pri­vacy” com­plaint about the film, which some in­ter­preted as sup­port for the SNP’S call for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Film­ing took place at the farm on 23 Septem­ber last year, and it was nearly three weeks be­fore Mr Shed­den dis­cov­ered what he had taken part in. The video was even­tu­ally re­moved from BBC iplayer, and is no longer on the SNP’S of­fi­cial Youtube chan­nel.

One clip cuts from a scene talk­ing of “be­liev­ers” in in­de­pen­dence to Mr Shed­den sit­ting hav­ing cof­fee in bales of hay.

At the time, the 55-year-old said: “I am fu­ri­ous. I am not a sup­porter of the SNP.”

The com­pany that pro­duced it, Green­room Films, apol­o­gised for in­clud­ing Mr Shed­den with­out his knowl­edge.

In a writ­ten rul­ing, Of­com said: “Mr Shed­den and his farm were shown in a Party Po­lit­i­cal Broad­cast for the SNP. We con­sid­ered that, con­se­quently, viewers may have rea­son­ably un­der­stood that Mr Shed­den was a sup­porter of the SNP, or at least, that he was pre­pared to be as­so­ci­ated with the party. Mr Shed­den said that he did not sup­port the SNP, and that he would not have con­trib­uted to the pro­gramme had it been made clear to him from the out­set that the footage would be used in the party’s po­lit­i­cal broad­cast.

“There­fore, it was our view that the in­clu­sion of this footage in the SNP’S po­lit­i­cal broad­cast, may have re­sulted in Mr Shed­den and his po­lit­i­cal views, be­ing un­fairly rep­re­sented.”

Green­room said that while oth­ers had signed a re­lease form to take part in the film, Mr Shed­den had not and should not have been in­cluded.

The com­pany ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the blun­der and said the BBC and the SNP had acted in “good faith”.

Af­ter lodg­ing his com­plaint, Mr Shed­den, who was given a fee of £550 for al­low­ing his land to be filmed, said: “My com­plaint was that this was to be non-po­lit­i­cal. We had a let­ter say­ing that it was def­i­nitely non-party po­lit­i­cal and it was just a snapshot of life in Scot­land. It was a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion film. I don’t want to get into pol­i­tics, but I am not an SNP sup­porter.”

A re-edited ver­sion of the film with Mr Shed­den re­moved from it was used in fur­ther broad­casts.

The SNP said there were un­aware of the is­sue un­til af­ter the broad­cast and said it had been caused by an “er­ror” by the film pro­duc­tion com­pany.

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