Posted by Tony Bennett
SIMON HARE OF THE BBC – Did he deceive viewers about The Madeleine Foundation?
On our website, you’ll find details of concerns that we had about Simon Hare’s programme on The Madeleine Foundation on BBC TV’s ‘Inside Out’ programme, shown on 22 November. He has kindly answered these. His answers, and our comments, are in the article on our website (see the link: ‘Simon Hare’s final response’ on our home page, www.madeleinefoundation.org.uk)
However, there are two issues within the programme that were not covered in our correspondence with Simon Hare, yet are important in understanding whether Simon Hare ever intended to make a fair programme about us. These concern:
1) His introduction to the programme, and
2) The way he dealt with the response to our leafleting on the streets of Bristol.
The question we pose is whether Simon Hare misled viewers in his treatment of the introduction to his film, and in his selection of material from our day of leafleting in Bristol. Below we try to provide the answer.
Simon Hare’s introduction to the programme
Simon Hare began with these words:
Secrecy surrounds the meeting of the self-appointed Madeline Foundation…they said I could attend. I have to wait for news of the location - I’m told to make may way to a hotel with conference facilities [he then shows a scene of him waiting outside The Gateway Hotel and Conference Centre, Nottingham] - but this proves to be just a meeting place - I’m then taken to the real venue… (long pause) - a room in a village hall in Nuthall [he shows a picture of Nuthall Parish Hall].
This sequence is accompanied by a certain style of music.
The wording and accompanying pictures chosen by Simon Hare give the viewers the clear impression that The Madeleine Foundation had led him to believe we were meeting in a grand conference centre in a posh hotel, but were actually meeting in a room in a Parish Hall. The key words Simon Hare has, no doubt very carefully and skilfully chosen, are these: “this proves to be just a meeting place”.
What Simon Hare did not tell viewers is that he knew in advance that this was only a meeting place. We explicitly told him that we were meeting at a community centre in Nottingham, not in a hotel with conference facilities. We also told him that the reason for the secrecy was threats of disruption from McCann-supporters; a fact he did not mention.
Here are extracts from an e-mail sent to Simon Hare 6 days before the conference:
Read more here
Simon Hare intends to write to the BBC Legal Department about comments made by 'associates of the so-called Madeleine Foundation'
BBC film on The Madeleine Foundation to be aired Monday 22 November, 7.30pm
The Madeleine Foundation's making of a programme - A history
Previous articles about Simon Hare of the BBC:
BBC's Simon Hare threatens "so-called Madeleine Foundation" with legal action after his own failure to produce a fair and balanced programme
Thoughts on BBC Inside Out and the Madeleine Foundation
A comment from Judge Mental on our forum:
"A man saying: 'There are some evil people about'.
And another saying: 'There's always those with conspiracy theories'.
Yet on the BBC cutting-room floor were clips of several people eagerly taking away more leaflets to hand round to others, and others saying how they had serious doubts about the McCanns' version of events.
When Helene Davies-Green was interviewed at home, she was filmed by Simon Hare preparing some mushrooms for dinner. She is an expert on the subject and frequently gives lectures on the topic.
The one and only quote in the film from Helene, chosen by Simon Hare, was: "Some of them are very poisonous".
In these times of austerity, it is a most improper use of public money for the BBC to have allowed this programme to go to air in such a ridiculous and unfinished state. Having watched this mish-mash of silliness and barbs, and having continued to read many comments about this, one gathers that this programme was never likely to become a series. Therefore, one cannot see any point in the BBC having wasted public money on making any such programme in the first instance, if it were not to come to any conclusions about the motivations, aims and objectives of The Madeleine Foundation.
Having discussed the way in which this programme was made, and discussing this at great length with people connected to The Madeleine Foundation, one is most satisfied that Hare was furnished with a wealth of information, not deemed libellous in Portugal or the UK. He should therefore have used some of this effectively in his programme. If Hare still did not feel as if he had been given enough information on this subject, he could very easily have researched and read about the subject by spending a couple of hours of his time in reading the Portuguese police files, which are globally available not only to the world's journalists, but to all members of the public. Therein, he would have found precisely why members of The Madeleine Foundation were galvanised into action, and whereby their aims and objectives originally came from to motivate them into doing what they continue to do today.
Tony Bennett telling Hare that there were matters of grave concern which he could not speak out about due to libel lawyers gagging him, was absolutely no excuse for Hare not to speak about those matters on Tony Bennett's behalf in order to clarify The Madeleine Foundation's position for the viewing public. For Hare to have spent so many months on this undertaking, it is quite appalling to realise that he knows no more now than when he began. To have broadcast his thoughts as such to the public at large is utterly ridiculous. If he and the editor believe it was ''playful'' to intimidate a woman and allow this to become part of the programme, it is with a heavy heart that one realises that the BBC is no longer the greatly revered informative, educative and entertaining corporation it once was.
This is from their own website: The BBC is a vibrant, fast moving, customer centric organisation whose core values are creativity, collaboration, trust, audiences, quality and respect. The BBC exists to enrich people’s lives with great programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. Its vision is to be the most creative, trusted organisation in the world.
Was it vibrant? No. Did it keep pace with current thinking? No. Was it creative? No. The collaboration seems to have been a one way street. Nobody could possibly be blamed for wanting to know if any other sort of collaboration may have taken place during the making of this programme though! The trust is broken. This was not quality television, however it could have been made so, had Hare taken care to show a fair and unbiased programme. Has this enriched anybody's life? No. Has it damaged relations with the BBC? Yes it has, because local programmes are becoming increasingly important in these days of power being handed back to our communities from the Government. Was any respect shown by Hare? No. Much respect has now gone out of the window.
It rather looks as if the BBC's vision to be the most creative, trusted organisation in the world will remain just that. A vision.
Yet it is still achievable, if the BBC were to consistently use its own ethical code in all areas of television. Other than that it will be destined to live under Murdoch's Sky. Regional programming has a great future, if only those people who work in it will listen to the public and produce quality television. This means employing programme-makers who are prepared to admit defeat, and pass the job onto somebody who knows what they are talking about when they are out of their depth. The public do not want to listen to somebody on television admitting that they are clueless about a programme they want them to watch."