TCAG complaint emails to BBC

Sent by TCAG on 12th March 2020

Using the complaints form on the BBC website with limited characters we sent the following:

Factually incorrect and misleading, biased content

At the start the presenter states that the Lower Thames Crossin is now set to be built after the Chancellor confirmed that he will make the money available to start construction. This is not true a DCO has not been applied for let alone granted.
The use of the 2018 fly through video implies it is current, this video is no longer up to date
Allowing and using footage of Gareth Johnson MP (Dartford) stating “the confirmation today in the budget today that the LTC project will go ahead” is misleading and untrue, a DCO has not yet been granted.
The route they drew on the map in red was not an accurate or official representation of the route
The comment that Compulsory Purchase Orders will be made and homes demolished again gives the impress that a DCO has been granted, which is again misleading as this is not the case.
Also the BBC normally has a policy of balanced reporting and equal time given to both sides, clearly this was not the case in this piece as it was biased in favour of the crossing, even though they had longer footage available to them, as the video footage Laura sent was longer and relevant.
We are very disappointed and would appreciate this matter being looked into and neccessary action taken to put this matter right, and avoid such biased reporting again.
This is not the first time we have witnessed BBC News use misleading, inaccurate, biased reporting on the topic of LTC, during the 2018 consultation footage that was years old and misleading and out of date was used.
We would welcome a reply and comments on this matter please, as we do not consider this acceptable, especially when there is currently a consultation for the LTC being held, as this kind of biased factually incorrect reporting could easily influence responses to the consultation. People may even decide to not respond now because you have reported that it has been given the go ahead in the budget.

BBC response to us on 17th March 2020

Thank you for contacting us about South East Today, as broadcast on 11 March.

We raised your concerns about Amanda Akass’s report directly with the production team.

The introduction referred to “The controversial Thames crossing is now set to be built after the Chancellor confirmed that his will make the money available to start construction…”, and to “hundreds of people in the area east of Gravesend have raised serious concerns about the impact of the road which will cut through greenbelt and ancient woodland”.

Amanda does specify “The announcement wasn’t actually made by the Chancellor as part of his speech this lunchtime… It was rather hidden away in the budget document.” She refers to this being a ‘kick start’ for the project ‘which is still out for consultation’. Amanda indicates that “for some it has been very controversial and campaigners say it could still be stopped” and we of course heard from yourself, explaining that “they still haven’t got the development consent order”.

Amanda does say towards the end of her report that the crossing was “subject to final planning and ministerial approval” and that MPs in the region, such as Caroline Lucas, have “raised questions about the environmental impact’’ of more road building.

While it was the case that there was lot of wind noise on your video, so it would have been difficult to use much more of it, we believe we used the key part of your interview to balance Amanda’s report.

We’d add it’s always our aim to be impartial, factual and fair. We don’t take a view, but include a wide range of viewpoints over time so that the audience can make up their own minds. As we’ve indicated above, the report did make clear that the crossing was controversial, we heard from yourself, we stated where and how the money had been made available, and that the crossing still had to go through the final planning process and ministerial approval, as it was still out for consultation.

The production team is happy with the illustrative video used.

Your feedback is valued, thank you again for getting in touch with your concerns.

Kind regards

BBC Complaints Team

TCAG follow on response 19th March 2020

Again via the BBC complaints form with limited amount of characters!

The response to (Reference removed for obvious reasons!) is not adequate I’m afraid. I clearly state it wasn’t Amanda’s section of the piece on LTC that was in question. It was the studio newsreader who clearly stated “Now the controversial Lower Thames Crossing is now set to be built after the Chanceller confirmed that he will make the money available to start construction”. This statement alone is factually incorrect, and it doesn’t matter who said it ie the Chancellor or whomever. The fact is that the statement gives the impression that Government have confirmed that construction can now start, which is not true and would be completely illegal until such time as DCO is granted.  It shouldn’t matter about what anyone else said in the piece as a whole this statement is factually incorrect, and is a serious issue considering we are currently in consultation.

Your female newsreader went on to say hundreds of people have raised serious concerns, which belittles the serious opposition to LTC, there are thousands who oppose it, fact.

You also allowed Gareth Johnson to say that it will go ahead in his interview again factually incorrect.

The map used was not an accurate representation of LTC. And mention of CPOs again not factually correct as this cannot legally be done until DCO is granted.

Far more time was given in support of LTC than against it in the piece as a whole.

I would like to be able to complain about this properly without the 2000 character limit, especially to be able to respond to your claims in full rather than having to shorten my comments to fit into the text field limits. Hardly a satisfactory means of complaint when we are limited in this way.

We still stand by the fact that we feel this matter needs to be addressed urgently, that the piece contained factually incorrect information, and was misleading and biased in favour of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, and would appreciate your response and details of how to take this further please.