Note: "ESC" was the Editorial Standards Committee of BBC Trustees.


Date: 15 September 2015 at 16:40

Subject: Urgent: BBC set to misreport UN pledges again at next week's Summit

To: Trust Editorial <>,

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 2000."


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.




Yours sincerely,


Matt Berkley.



Attachment:  Government commitments on global poverty.pdf