Tuesday 21 April 2015

Abase response from the BBC Complaints department

I complained to the BBC on 31st March as follows:
Please could you explain why the Daily Mail front page of 28 March, with its headline story 'Jihadi Girl's Dad is a Fanatic', was completed omitted from the previous day's News Channel's 'The Papers' (11pm, 27/3)? Every other national newspaper's front page was featured 
Also why was the same Daily Mail front page missing from the BBC website's 'The Papers' the following morning (28/3)?
And why did Radio 4's 'Today' fail to mention it either its its paper reviews?
Was this story being deliberately censored across the BBC's main reporting platforms?
Given the extensive coverage of the complaints made against the British authorities by the family of the three girls from London who went to Syria to join Isis, shouldn't the BBC have led the way in reporting the Daily Mail's scoop about the apparent extremist links of one of the girls' father, given its obvious relevance to the story?
The BBC's response has been some time coming but it finally arrived today. It says:
Thank you for contacting us about our coverage of Abase Hussen.
Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and are sorry you’ve had to wait on this occasion.
BBC News is aware of the video material said to show Mr Hussen at a rally in 2012 and we have looked into the matter ourselves.
We didn’t consider it merited a report on its own, but it was included in a TV piece due to run on the evening of Friday, March 27th. Unfortunately, because of other news priorities, including the court verdict in the Amanda Knox/Meredith Kercher case, it didn’t make it to air.
However, it is something that we do intend to return to in the future.
Your complaint has been included in our overnight report of audience feedback that is sent to news teams and senior management within BBC News. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly.
Thank you again for raising this matter.
Yours sincerely,
BBC Complaints 

You'll have noticed that the BBC's reply doesn't answer my specific questions about why the Daily Mail's lead story about Abase Hussen was completely ignored across three BBC platforms (TV, radio and website). It ignores them.

It merely tells us instead that the BBC knew about the story, but didn't think it very important. The BBC was going to mention it during a TV piece, apparently, but that piece got dropped.

So, after all the coverage Abase Hussen got when his daughter ran off to join the vicious terrorists of Islamic State, strongly denouncing the British authorities for failing his daughter and family whilst doing so, the BBC obviously felt it was OK not to inform its audience about the evidence suggesting that Mr Hussen himself is an extremist - a vital ingredient in telling the whole story, surely?

When the BBC Complaints guy writes, "However, it is something that we do intend to return to in the future", I afraid I don't have any confidence in that pledge whatsoever. They clearly have absolutely no plans to update this story. The censorship will continue.


  1. I received a similarly dismissive reply & have taken my complaint to the next stage. I think the Corporation's strategy is to grind complainants down by, in the first instance, making them go through an unnecessarily long-winded procedure & then taking their time replying so that, faced with the need to write another letter, most people give up. It would be interesting to know what percentage of complaints are taken to the second stage.

    1. I had mine back within 3 days. Frankly so busy I have not had a chance to escalate and wonder if they may pull the 'mystery BBC deadline' card on me to tuck it neatly in the 'no longer a problem' file.

      It's why I think a public register of these replies is needed (one reason I have been busy).

      In case any here missed it, until I get the proposed complaints register running I hope Craig & Sue will permit a cut and paste of my share then, again, here:


      Reference CAS-XXX

      Thanks for getting in touch regarding 'The Papers' as provided by BBC News Online.

      We understand you were unhappy with the range of stories addressed on this particular occasion. We note that you feel an eye-catching story in the Daily Mail deserved more attention and reference alongside the other items on this date.

      Although you didn't specifically state the nature of this news item yourself, we gather that it involved radicalised school pupils who left the UK and their treatment by the authorities. There was a similar report however on a connected theme on BBC Online just the day before, here:


      We will indeed continue to report on all the issues involved, with audience feedback in mind.

      These decisions are always judgement calls rather than an exact science, but we appreciate the feedback that our audience gives us when they feel a story has been overlooked or marginalised. We know that not everyone will agree with our choices on which stories to cover, or the particular angle we take with them on each and every occasion. These are subjective decisions made by our editors and reporters, and we accept that not everyone will think that we are correct on each occasion. This is the difficulty we face as a national broadcaster, seeking to unfold many issues to a very diverse audience in the long run, who often have varying interests and opinions.

      We'd like to reassure you that all complaints, including your own comments, are sent to senior management and News Editors every morning. Your points are now included in this overnight report, so that we're aware of potential issues and concerns among our audience. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform our coverage of events and how we can handle them appropriately with our audience in mind.

      Thanks again for getting in touch.

      Kind regards



    2. 2/2 - My take on the above reply:

      I note a few of what are now becoming constants, especially when they know they have zero legs to stand on.

      a) They didn't actually answer my specific complaint and tried to reframe it in a way that made their clear editorial omission explicable. It wasn't and isn't. I didn't and don't need to mention the story on the DM front page, as they didn't feature the front DM page at all. A silly, petty, irrelevant point.

      b) They attempt to use the never was or will be valid 'technique' of pointing elsewhere on the BBC media estate to excuse omission where complained about. I didn't see the story referred to. I did see what the BBC reckoned was 'in the news' that day. And what was clearly not.

      And, that, bar patronising template [Ed: conceding that the replies coming in as shared here do seem more 'tuned' than is often the case. Again highlighting a central register to compare] waffle, is it.

      No hint that it can be pursued further or how.

      But it can, and will be {Ed: if I find time. Still worth it. They did not offer a deadline]

      I feel an FOI coming on so they can produce the data of what papers/stories get featured and what do not in their 'summary', based on 'decisions that are always judgement calls rather than an exact science; subjective decisions made by our editors and reporters'.

      What would be a good period? One year? This last? That is 365 days.

      Which papers are left off, and which lead stories with them, tallied with 'The Paperboy' lists of what is 'big news', may make an interesting comparison.

      If anyone can recall other moments when the BBC went coy on headline stories (such as the Whitehall marches - checking now if it made this BBC feature vs. the blackout across their main broadcast/online outlets) during this period, that would be a help in assessing the impartial, professional nature of these judgement calls.


      Note: On this last, the FOI, I did pursue this. Guess what happened?:


      "The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion."

      Neatly sewn up system they have going, really.

      Yet they still claim transparency almost as a daily mantra? The reality suggests otherwise.

      Guido seems to be gunning for them, which means politicians and other media will be taking note. Crucially, although some aspects can cab bogged down in vague 'bias' interpretations and hence endless BBC semantics in excuse, there are simple facts they cannot and should not be allowed to ignore.

      On top of the McAlpine farrago, Marr's 'cock-up not conspiracy' attempted dismissal warrants a bunch of questions on how quotes came to be made up and misapplied in interview, just as the Food Bank data was totally misrepresented for political ends.

      The BBC is in full campaigning mode across all sorts of areas, from climate and immigration and 'fears for nutjobs', to plain a simply getting the man who has guaranteed their income back in any way they can.

      That is power corrupted to a horrendous degree.

    3. "They didn't actually answer my specific complaint and tried to reframe it in a way that made their clear editorial omission explicable."

      Yes, that's what they did here too.

      There seem to be a lot of bias stories to follow up at the moment. It's a bit overwhelming. It's good that Guido, the Spectator and others are fact-checking the BBC now. The more the merrier.

  2. I would add that their excuse about Knox/Kercher case doesn't wash with me. It's essentially an old story with an update. Why should it have the power to knock a high profile and very current story off the news?

    PS. Any news on your complaint about Amanda Vickery's experiment with time manipulation?

    1. Yes, they replied and admitted the programme's errors before editing the programme slightly to removed the offending passage on i-Player. They also placed a prominent ifsomewhat mysterious note on the i-Player saying the programme had been edited to correct a factual error (it didn't say what).

      More here:


      The programme is no longer available to re-view on i-Player now, but if they repeat in (say on BBC Four) they should repeat the edited version.

    2. Thanks. I missed that post.

  3. The stale Amanda Knox story, which happened in another country and no Britons were involved - is more important than something contemporary and is a major topic of discussion? BS.

    Combined with their omission of the Mail headlines, I think we have evidence of what I shall call the 'Skyes Principle', named after our favorite veteran Beeboid, Hugh. It should be invoked every time the BBC obviously censors something because it might "give permission for prejudice".

    1. Agreed that the Amanda Knox story should not have take precedence; however, "no Britons were involved" is incorrect, the most important person, the deceased, was British. I hope in time someone is brought to justice for her murder.

    2. He was. Rudy Guede was sentenced to 30 years for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

  4. Outrageously poor and inadequate response !

    Well done with pursuing this issue because it is VERY important.

    Please take it to the next level because this response fails completely to deal with the central complaint.

  5. Two big bias stories today:

    1. Guido's screenshot of the BBC Website on the election which read like a Labour press release to the exclusion of ALL other parties. Totally damning.

    2. Tuesday's "Newsbeat" special with appalling levels of bias and stupidity (equating "immigration" with "net migration"). They had 6 pro immigration quotes against one anti. Also, all the presenter's summations just boosted the pro-immigration line.

    So - overall a complete BBC fail.

    I for one - who up till now have always supported the BBC and its funding regime - am having serious doubts. Why would you want to support an institution that can be so completely dishonest?:

    1. I will try to check out that 'Newsbeat' special.

      It wouldn't be the first time that programme has been astonishingly biased as regards immigration:


  6. Craig - It would be a really good thing to do if you could appeal to the BBC Complaints with the information you have written on this site and tell them that you are not satisfied with their answer. It is only when people send in a further complaint that they take you a bit more seriously. It costs the BBC money and effort to respond and in this way you can make some impact on them.

    1. Yes, I will do so. The matter needs pushing.

  7. I've just discovered this blog because I noticed the same thing myself. I suppose you also know something similar happened with the Aylan Kurdi story? For example, the Australian news channel's interview of the other woman in the boat that capsized who also lost 2 of her children, and she said that Abdel Kurdi was piloting the boat from start to finish and he was a people smuggler.



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