BBC Apology to The Madeleine Foundation
Released 12 September 2009
BBC Apology to The Madeleine Foundation
“We apologise for giving a false impression to viewers about the facts in the ‘10 Reasons’ leaflet”
Thanks to a valued supporter of The Madeleine Foundation, the BBC, who rarely admit fault on anything, has apologised for giving viewers a misleading impression about the contents of our popular leaflet: “What Really Happened to Madeleine McCann? - 10 key reasons which suggest she was not abducted”.
During an interview by Anne Davies of BBC’s ‘East Midlands Today’ with Madeleine Foundation Chairman Debbie Butler on Friday 14 August, Debbie repeatedly asserted that the leaflet was factual. In response, the interviewer made a dismissive and indeed absurd comment that “The facts can always be altered to suit”.
The interview followed a leaflet drop by Madeleine Foundation supporters in different parts of Leicestershire, including the McCanns’ home village of Rothley, two days earlier (12 August). The publicity surrounding the leaflet drop led to hundreds of thousands of hits on The Madeleine Foundation website, many new orders for our ‘60 Reasons’ booklet and ‘10 Reasons’ leaflet, and several new subscriptions.
Here is the BBC’s response to our supporter’s complaint:
10 September 2009
Dear [name withheld]
Thanks for your e-mail regarding 'East Midlands Today'.
Firstly, I should apologise for the delay in getting back to you. We realise that our correspondents appreciate a quick response and I'm therefore sorry that you've had to wait on this occasion.
I understand that you have concerns regarding how Anne Davies spoke of facts in a leaflet from The Madeleine Foundation.
Your complaint has been discussed with the programme's senior editorial team.
There are several groups which could be described as being against the McCann family and obviously their views can be very controversial especially in the McCann's home town of Rothley in Leicestershire.
The premise of the East Midlands Today report and subsequent interview on 14 August with Debbie Butler, chairman of the Madeleine Foundation, was to concentrate on the emotional aspects in terms of the distress caused specifically in Rothley by the group's leaflet distribution. This intent was well signposted for viewers in the introduction, during the filmed report and the introduction to the interview.
That said, in retrospect whilst the interview was robust and challenging we do feel that a comment from the East Midlands Today presenter about the facts in the leaflet referred to by the Madeleine Foundation may have erroneously given rise to a perception that the BBC held a view on the matter. We would like to assure you that this is not the case and apologise if such an impression may have been given.
To this end, I can assure you that your complaint has been registered on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us with your feedback.
Debbie Butler - Chairman: 07867 887066
Tony Bennett - Srcretary: 01279 635789
"What really happened to Madeleine McCann? - 60 Reasons which suggest she was not abducted", (60pp) available £3 direct from me or £4 via PayPal on this Madeleine Foundation link: http://madeleinefoundation.org/main/our-book/
Specifically, this complaint related to the following two exchanges:
Debbie Butler: No, I apologise if anyone has been offended by reading the facts but they are the facts and they're based on 30,000 pages of evidence.
Anne Davies: I don't want to get into that Debbie because...
AD: ...you know, facts can be changed for anyone. We want to talk about the leaflets...
AD: (cuts in) Well, we'll leave... we'll leave it there because, to be perfectly honest, you know, they might be facts as you... as far as you're concerned...
DB: (cuts in) No, they are facts taken from the police files.
AD: (continues talking) ...but not as far as everyone is concerned...
DB: (continues talking) ...they are facts.
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