The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg gets scolded for misrepresenting Corbyn – by the BBC itself

James Wright

The BBC has scolded its Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg for a “failure of due accuracy” in a report on Jeremy Corbyn.

Leaked to The Herald, the “drafted findings” by watchdog the BBC Trust uphold a viewer’s complaint against the Political Editor. The complaint argued that Kuenssberg misrepresented the Labour leader’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in a BBC News at Six item on the November 2015 Paris attacks.

The misrepresentation

Kuenssberg claimed she had asked Corbyn whether he would be happy for officers to pull the trigger if a Paris-style attack took place in the UK, according to a BBC Trust document.

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But the complaint asserted that the question she had asked Corbyn in the original interview was “substantially different” to how she paraphrased it on BBC News.

In the longer interview, Kuenssberg asked:

But if you were Prime Minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?

Corbyn replied:

I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive. I think you have to have security that prevents people firing off weapons where you can.

A “failure of due accuracy”

Upholding the complaint, the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) concluded:

He [Corbyn] was asked about “shoot-to-kill” and he gave an answer about his views on “shoot-to-kill”, but in the News at Six piece it was presented as him not supporting armed engagement in an ongoing hostage situation – a scenario that was not put to him.

The ESC also stated:

The Committee decided there was a significant difference between what Mr Corbyn said and what the report inferred. This had led to a failure of due accuracy.

The alleged inaccurate paraphrasing would likely reinforce the perception that Corbyn is too ‘soft’ on the hot-button issue of terrorism.

A BBC Trust spokesman said:

We don’t comment on any leaked appeal ahead of its publication. This finding isn’t finalised yet and will be published following the next Editorial Standards Committee meeting.

Meanwhile, BBC News contested the report:

BBC News does not accept the assertions made and the complaint has been rejected on four separate occasions already.

The Trust has not published a finding regarding this appeal and BBC News has further evidence it is still to present this month before that happens.

This watchdog needs dentures

Many BBC viewers will be wondering where the watchdog has been all this time.

Expanding on its conclusion, the BBC Trust said there was “no evidence” to suggest the misrepresentation was intentional. But it stated:

Trustees considered that the effect of the failures to observe due accuracy had, on this occasion, also resulted in a failure of impartiality

But this is not the only occasion the Political Editor has been accused of breaching impartiality guidelines. Kuenssberg’s reporting has been beset with allegations of severe bias from BBC viewers, concerned with her balance. In May 2016, a petition to replace her for pro-Conservative bias gained 35,000 signatures in a handful of days. 38 Degrees removed the petition after politicians and the mainstream media peddled a fake smear campaign against its supporters.

It may come as no surprise that the BBC Trust finds no issue with Kuenssberg’s general reporting. Rona Fairhead, the sitting BBC Trust chairwoman, has entrenched ties to the Tory government. In fact, she and George Osborne are old friends. She worked for the Conservative government as a Cabinet Office member, until being appointed by the former Conservative Culture Secretary – Sajid Javid – as the new head of the BBC Trust. She remained Business Ambassador for David Cameron when she took on the role as Chairwoman. And she also sits on the board of HSBC directors and PepsiCo.

This is the person leading the BBC’s regulatory watchdog.

Better than the standard corporate media procedure for Corbyn

The academic evidence suggests that even this instance of alleged inaccurate reporting from Kuenssberg may be better than the wider mainstream media. A report published by the London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader. According to the report, 56% of the Corbyn-related articles analysed did not give the Labour leader a voice at all.

A closer look at the BBC Trust reveals more of a lapdog than a watchdog. So it comes as no surprise that this is the only reported instance where a complaint against Kuenssberg has been upheld in “drafted findings” or otherwise by the regulatory body. The BBC needs to clean up its act and offer the public service licence fee payers deserve.

Get Involved!

– You may like to make an official complaint about BBC bias here.

– You might also like to remind Laura Kuenssberg very politely about her responsibilities as a public service broadcaster.

– Support The Canary, so we can continue to step in where mainstream outlets like the BBC fail.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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