Readers who have studied the BBC Trust’s latest publication of editorial appeals findings (March 2015 – published on 30/4/15) will no doubt have noticed that the first three items relate to appeals – all ultimately unsuccessful – made by members of the public affected by the application of the BBC’s expedited complaints procedure.
An explanation of that procedure can be found in our previous post “The Catch 22 clause in the BBC’s complaints procedure“. As noted there, one scenario under which the BBC can limit a member of the public’s access to the BBC complaints system is when the corporation deems that a complainant has a history of making complaints which “are shown on investigation to have no reasonable prospect of success”.
An additional scenario which allows for the application of the expedited complaints procedure is the failure of appeals:
“(e) after rejection of the complaint at an earlier stage (eg Stage 1), are persistently and repeatedly appealed unsuccessfully to the next stage (eg Stage 2).”
As has been noted here before:
“Of course the body which rules whether or not a complaint has a “reasonable prospect of success” and which rejects or accepts an appeal is none other than the self-regulating BBC itself.”
Another document produced by the BBC Trust’s ESC provides a summary of “Complaints closed at stage 1b and complainants subject to the Expedited Complaints Procedure” between February 2013 and September 2014.
There we see for example that among the “complaints closed at stage 1b” in July 2014 (16% of a total of 954 complaints) was one questioning the accuracy of the BBC’s “description of Hamas as militant”. In September 2014 “complaints closed at stage 1b” (10% of a total of 912 complaints) included three questioning the accuracy of Hamas casualty figures promoted by the BBC.
As readers are no doubt well aware, there is nothing to suggest that the BBC carried out any kind of independent verification of the casualty figures promoted by Hamas both directly and indirectly (via the UN) either whilst last summer’s conflict was ongoing or after it ended. The corporation has refrained from reporting on the results of investigations which show the unreliability of the civilian/combatant casualty ratio presented by Hamas at the time as part of its publicly declared strategy and has even defended its use of statistics supplied by the terrorist organization.
Whilst it is not possible to determine from this document which of the complaints “closed at stage 1b” by the BBC were made by members of the public to whom the expedited complaints procedure was applied, we can at least ascertain that in theory, a complainant who questioned the BBC’s use of Hamas provided casualty figures could have been deemed to have made a complaint which has “no reasonable prospect of success” and thus become a candidate for application of that procedure.
This example once more highlights the fact that the concept of stakeholders in an organisation they are obliged to fund by law being subjected to limitations on complaints on the basis of arbitrary decisions made by that same self-regulating organisation is one which is worthy of public debate – particularly as the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016 approaches.