Chairman, UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport
From: Matt Berkley
17 September 2015
Dear Mr Norman,
Thank you for your courtesy when I interrupted the Committee meeting the day before yesterday.
I am afraid the BBC has repeatedly told the world falsehoods about World Bank poverty statistics methodology, UN "clean water" statistics and government pledges, even after acknowledging or correcting the same errors after complaints.
I propose that you forward this email to the Director-General, just in case during next week's UN Summit the BBC again gives the impression that the Millennium Declaration has easier 1990 baselines. The BBC Trust got the story wrong even after investigating. Something is badly wrong.
Forwarded message ----------
Date: 16 September 2015 at 20:36
Subject: Fwd: Urgent: BBC set to misreport UN pledges again at next week's Summit
Thank you for your attention yesterday outside Portcullis House, on the BBC's errors about Millennium Declaration pledges.
The problems might raise questions of governance, news strategy and/or adequacy of the complaints system authorised by the Trust.
The BBC has repeatedly stated, and implied, that Millennium pledges have easier baselines than is in fact the case, and failed to reply to complaints on this since February 2014.
The evidence I mentioned to you is here.
As you can see, the relevance of my comments to your blog post is that the BBC is proposing to extend iPlayer and/or CBBC output, and I am pointing out defects in quality which might indicate a better target for expenditure and/or consideration.
The BBC has also reported non-existent statistics for "safe" water, and claimed there are price data for a "basket of essential goods" since "a couple of decades ago". The errors have appeared even after the BBC altered web pages in response to complaints from me.
Complaints beginning in May 2012 concerning factual errors, range of views and range of contributors in More or Less have hardly begun to be answered. Other complaints, submitted because the originals were not answered, have been entirely ignored.
In my view broadcasting false information on government pledges and evidence for progress counteracts more useful work done by BBC Media Action and the BBC's charity efforts. It undermines democracy and is astoundingly disrespectful of people the BBC claims to inform.
Further evidence is at:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 15 September 2015 at 16:40
Subject: Urgent: BBC set to misreport UN pledges again at next week's Summit
To: Trust Editorial <TrustEditorial@bbc.co.uk>, James.Purnell@bbc.co.uk
Dear Mr Towers, Ms O'Brien and Mr Purnell,
I am afraid the ESC, as well as the BBC Executive, seems to have misled the public.
There was no UN "commitment" to the MDGs in 2001. That is why the UN Statistics Division does not list any such resolution.
The resolution which some people think agreed the MDGs is 56/95 of 14 December 2001.
It mentions the Secretary-General's 58-page "Road Map" but does not say whether it was interested in other parts or the annex containing the MDGs.
The ESC stated on 19 June 2015:
"In the following year, 2001, the UN published a Road Map..."
I am afraid that does not seem clear enough when we are discussing UN commitments. It was the Secretary-General's Road Map, not the nations'. It was a document written by civil servants, making proposals to the General Assembly.
The ESC stated,
"It can be seen therefore that by changing the base line
for measuring the reduction of under-five child mortality deaths to the year
1990, the target set in 2001 was a less
demanding commitment than that made in
Firstly, there were no 1990 baselines for any of the goals in the Declaration. Reuters, The Economist, the Times of India, the New York Times and so on said it had 2000 baselines. The BBC's error is not only about child mortality.
Secondly, the ESC's statement seems clearly to say that there was a commitment in 2001 to the easier baseline.
In reality, far from changing the commitment, the same resolution of 14 December 2001 called for the Declaration to be publicised; and more than one resolution of 21 December 2001 reaffirmed the Declaration - as did leaders in 2005 at the World Summit, in 2013 and in effect in July 2015, when the Addis Ababa conference reaffirmed the Monterrey Consensus.
But all you really need to know for this particular point is that the BBC Trust is unable to produce any evidence for its message to the public that the easier baselines were agreed by the UN in 2001.
Even when they mentioned the MDGs in 2005 leaders reaffirmed the Declaration in the same resolution.
The Executive, as I said, has repeatedly given the public the impression - after the Trustees acknowledged the baseline change - that the easier MDGs were agreed by leaders in 2000. I confirm that the Today programme on 30 June and 1 July (8.35am and 7.35am) gave a similar impression. BBC World News likewise.
The Executive has persistently failed to respond to complaints on these matters.
I do not know why Mr Steel has written to me as if I appealed all my complaints to the Trust. I propose that the Trust immediately require the Executive to review the baseline error, using the evidence I previously supplied to the Trust Unit, for a possible broadcast correction before the Summit. So far both the ESC and the Executive have been misleading not only the public but also the BBC's own journalists.
...the BBC's catastrophic error on the Millennium pledges - falsely implying that world leaders pledged 4.3 million child deaths in 2015 when the truth is 3.6, and making other errors on baselines for hunger, water, money and other government commitments....