Monday

BBC's Simon Hare and his failure to produce a fair and balanced programme about The Madeleine Foundation



By Tony Bennett, secretary of the Madeleine Foundation

6th Madeleine Foundation Conference - Shropshire - Summary Report

The following criticisms of Simon Hare and the programme he had put together were made:

*In the opening sequence, an impression was given to the viewer that by asking Simon Hare to meet with a member at the Nottingham Gateway Hotel, we somehow misled Simon Hare into thinking we had booked our conference there. This appeared to be a very deliberate misrepresentation. After he had asked for permission to attend the conference, we had clearly told him that we were meeting ‘at a community centre in Nottingham’. We had told him to meet at the Gateway Hotel and told him we would take him to ‘a nearby venue’. We had been absolutely straight about that, explaining that we did not disclose the venues in advance to anyone who had not registered, explaining that McCann-supporters had in the past openly threatened to disrupt proceedings. The accompanying background music to the clips of Nuthall Parish Hall was also designed to create a misleading impression of mystery.

* Simon Hare claimed that after leaving the Madeleine Foundation conference he was ‘still no nearer to understanding what the Madeleine Foundation was all about’. This was disingenuous at best. By that time, he had been able to read our entire website and had listened by invitation to a robust discussion by 19 members and supporters of what might have happened to Madeleine McCann.

* Simon Hare had promised in writing that as part of his obligation to produce a fair programme, he would ensure that viewers were told that the ban on Goncalo Amaral’s book being sold had been lifted on 19 October. That promise had been broken. Not only that, but in a trailer for the film he had described Goncalo Amaral as ‘discredited’

* The express purpose of The Madeleine Foundation handing in a petition to 10 Downing Street, and letters at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, was to press the government to hold a full public enquiry, with the power to summon witnesses, into all aspects of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Simon Hare did not even mention this, despite promising in writing that he would make a ‘full and fair’ programme about our work.

* The arguments that we gave during interviews as to why we considered that the McCanns had questions to answer, e.g. the cadaver dog’s alerts, the McCanns’ reactions to the cadaver dog’s alerts, and the long list of discrepancies and changes of story, were all left on the cutting room floor and never made the film. Instead, Simon Hare dismissed the all the circumstantial and other evidence that Madeleine had died in the McCanns’ apartment as ‘discredited’. In short, the film did not allow us to make our case.

* The sequence of an MF member hiding behind a lamp-post was a breach of trust. The member concerned had specifically stated that she did not wish to be filmed and Simon Hare had agreed in writing to that, having been told that many MF members and supporters feared repercussions if they made public their questioning of the McCanns’ abduction claim.

* The playing of the song: ‘I don’t care what the people may say’ was cut into the film to convey a subtle, but inaccurate, message.

* The statement of Debbie Butler about what happened on the day of leafleting in Leicestershire on 12 August 2009 was false in several respects, and, again contrary to specific promises, was not put to the other three participants in the leafleting that day, namely Tony Bennett, Grenville Green and Helene Davies- Green. The following statements by Ms Butler were wholly untrue:

(i)] that she was ‘instructed’ to do anything that day

(ii)] that it was known in advance that the Restaurant and Tea Rooms in Mountsorrel was a place Dr Kate McCann had once visited with Madeleine

(iii) that any of us distributed leaflets there that day

(iv) that she was ‘instructed’ to leaflet the McCanns’ road. The Crescent

(v) that she only did so because Helene’s legs ‘turned to jelly’.

* Moreover, the other three had given to Simon Hare their account of the day’s events and none of those were used.

* During the making of the programme, Simon Hare had been given chapter and verse about Ms Butler’s malicious claim of fraud against Tony Bennett and full particulars of her repeated false claims to have walked across Spain in the summer heat, making it as plain as could be that her word on anything could simply not be trusted. Moreover, Simon Hare had given his promise that because of these concerns he would not be interviewing Debbie Butler for the programme.

* The longest clip shown of the Bristol leafleting was of a group of students challenging Tony Bennett. Other sequences showing Tony chatting to passers-by who were in full support of our campaign and asking to take away more leaflets to hand to others were clearly left on the cutting-room floor.

* No reference whatsoever was made to the in-depth articles on our website, e.g. about the contradictions, about the private investigators, about the Fund, about Robert Murat, about the trials of Goncalo Amaral, about Marcos Aragao Correia, etc., yet these form the core of our work, and the BBC promised a ‘full’ look at the work of The Madeleine Foundation.

* During the filming of Grenville Green, Simon Hare asked to film him running a Union Jack up the flagpole in his garden. He asked Simon Hare: “What do you want to do that for?” and refused.

These were not the only points of concern raised about the film. At stake had been the reputation of the BBC for fairness, integrity and honesty. What action we take to raise these concerns formally with the BBC has not yet been resolved.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i5UxCQunmk


Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn_JuW0TFnI

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Related links regarding the BBC Inside Out programme:

Tony Bennett's voice on the 'Inside Out' programme

BBC East Midlands programme about the Madeleine Foundation

Stealing copyright and blocking opposition - the BBC East Midlands film on YouTube

BBC film on The Madeleine Foundation to be aired Monday 22 November, 7.30pm

The Madeleine Foundation's making of a programme - A history

The BBC are to air their short programme on the Madeleine Foundation this evening amid fresh controversy.