Complaint: Trustees' and/or Trust Unit staff behaviour





Matt Berkley


Attachment14 March 2017 at 15:51


To: Trust Editorial <>

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Dear Ms Fairhead and Sir Roger,


Complaint: Trustees' and/or Trust Unit staff behaviour


I have had no response from the BBC Trust to my emails of 9 March.   The emails concern an unanswered complaint from 2015 about inaccuracy in an Editorial Standards Committee ruling.  


Trustees misled in stating:


"In the following year, 2001, the UN published a Road Map...It can be seen therefore that by changing the base line for measuring the reduction of under-five child mortality deathsto the year 1990, the target set 
in 2001 was a less demanding commitment
 than that made in 2000."


In reality it was not the "nations" who published the road map;  it was not only the child death target they proposed changing; there was no "commitment" by member states to the 1990 baseline;  and even if there had been, nations went on committing themselves to the 15-year targets set in the Millennium Declaration and the food pledge from the 1996 World Food Summit.  

The Trust Unit later applied the Expedited Complaints Procedure.  However, at the time of the unanswered complaint in 2015 no such procedure was in force.   The Trustees' decision of 19 October 2016 cited the procedure, which specifically applies to future complaints. 

"The complainant should be notified in writing that the Expedited Complaints Procedure will be applied to their future complaints."


The Trust therefore appears to have a statutory duty to respond. 


Since I am not aware of who is to blame for the failure, I cannot be more specific in the allegation than to say there has been a failure to respond.


The fact that Trustees failed to provide any evidence for their disputed claim about a matter fundamental to key editorial complaints, or defend their own reasoning, may undermine their decisions on related complaints.   


I am aware that the Trust is to cease on 2 April.   I propose that the Trust do what it can and then pass the case to Ofcom.


In any case I request an answer to the complaint that the Trustees misled.


Yours sincerely,


Matt Berkley







Notes: The unanswered complaint of 9 October 2015 included a document of evidence (attached).


The position appears even less favourable to the Trustees' statements than I stated in the complaint. 


Even in 2006 the US ambassador to the UN insisted world leaders' 2005 summit had not endorsed the civil servants' MDG structure.


Contrary to the Trustees' message in their ruling, (and problematic for BBC output over many years):

After the civil servants in 2001 proposed a 25-year period, member states instead again agreed 15 years.


"The General Assembly adopted resolution 56/192...on 21 December 2001. Reaffirming the Millennium Declaration goal of reducing by half, between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water..."
Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Governing Council of the UN Environmental Programme
Note by the Secretariat
30 January 2002


"The US has not officially endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as outlined in the UN document "Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration". It should be noted that the MDGs have not yet been brought before any international forum for formal endorsement of the International Development Goals (IDGs), the subsequent endorsement of the IDGs at the 1998 G-8 Summit, and the signing of the Millennium Declaration in September 2000. Though substantively similar, the MDGs do not correspond exactly to the range of goals agreed in these other forums.  
The US does believe that indicators for measuring progress toward development goals should be distinguished from an official endorsement of principles by the international community. While potentially useful from an analytical perspective, the proposed indicators for measuring progress toward the MDGs should be separated from any future official endorsement of the MDGs themselves."

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from USAID May 2002 
House of Commons Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence


“We, the representatives of the peoples of the world...commit ourselves to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and to expedite the achievement of the time-bound, socio-economic and environmental targets contained therein.”
Plan of Implementation:

"Develop programmes and initiatives to reduce, by 2015, mortality rates for infants and children under 5 by two thirds, and maternal mortality rates by three quarters, of the prevailing rate in 2000 and reduce disparities between and within developed and developing countries as quickly as possible"

"we agree to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water (as outlined in the Millennium Declaration) and the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation"

World Summit on Sustainable Development 
4 September 2002
General Assembly Resolution 57/253:



"BBC Lecture
...the Secretary-General will present a special BBC World Service lecture as part of the celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and he will discuss...the goals enshrined in the Millennium Declaration."

10 December 2002



"In a direct appeal to the people of Iraq to be broadcast by the BBC, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ...

Delivering a lecture on the 70th anniversary of the British Broadcasting Corporation's World Service, Mr. Annan spoke ...

On global problems, he stressed the importance of the targets set in the Millennium Declaration adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000..."
In BBC address, Annan says Iraq must fully comply with disarmament obligations
10 December 2002



2005-6: US still does not agree to the civil servants' MDG structure.

"The outcome [final summit] document clarifies the term MDGs, which means goals in the Millennium Declaration," she said."
U.N. Document Clarifies Development Goals, State's Silverberg Says  


"Subsequent to the adoption of the Millennium Declaration,
the U.N. Development Program and other U.N. agencies took those
goals and attempted to put them in quantifiable terms. Those
efforts at quantification were not endorsed by all member
governments, and specifically not by the United States

Senate Hearing 109-935 
July 27, 2006



2009: Nations reaffirm the more ambitious commitment of halving the 1996 number of hungry/malnourished by 2015:

“We, the Heads of State and Government, or our Representatives and the Representative of the European Community...decide to:...
Ensure...action to fully realize the target of Millennium Development Goal and the 1996 World Food Summit goal, namely to reduce respectively the proportion and the number of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition by half by 2015.”

World Summit on Food Security, Rome 
16-18 November 2009


2012: Nations recommit to the agreements, which include the 1996 food target and the Millennium Declaration:


"We, the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives...
recommit to fully implement the internationally agreed commitments related to Africa's development needs, particularly those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration"

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro 
22 June 2012



"We, the Heads of State and Government and heads of delegation...reaffirm our commitment to the Millennium Declaration".









On 16 October 2015 at 17:58, Trust Editorial <> wrote:

Dear Mr Berkley


...You have also complained about the published finding. We will revert to you in due course. But may I make it clear that a decision by the Trustees is final and unless I am persuaded there is a factual error I will not advise that it be changed.  


Yours sincerely


Fran O’Brien




From: Matt Berkley <>
Date: 9 March 2017 at 14:45
Subject: Reminder: Unanswered complaint - further information
To: Trust Editorial <>

Further to my email of this afternoon:




On 9 October 2015 at 16:36, Matt Berkley <> wrote:



 Dear Mr Ayre and Ms O'Brien,


Request for Trustees to correct error in published ruling


The Millennium Declaration, reaffirmed by the General Assembly in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013, has a 2000 baseline.

Evidence for statements in the present account is at:

The Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust stated in a decision issued on 19 June 2015:

"In the following year, 2001, the UN 

[clarification: the UN Secretary-General:  the Trustees' words might be taken as meaning the nations themselves] 


[clarification: "published proposals in"] 

a Road Map...

It can be seen therefore that by changing the base line for measuring the reduction of under-five child mortality deaths

[correction: "by proposing a different baseline for child mortality, maternal mortality, hunger and the "dollara day" "] 

to the year 1990, the target set

[correction: "proposed"] 

in 2001 was a less demanding commitment

[correction: "proposal"] 

than that 

[clarification: "than the commitment"]

made in 2000."

[correction: "made in 2000, on 21 December 2001, in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013"].

Even if there had been a formal "commitment" by member states to the MDGs in 2001, or even if there can be said to be such in any year such as 2010, such a commitment is clearly outweighed by the reaffirmation of the more demanding commitment, in 2013.

Since nations did not rescind or modify the commitments in the Declaration, the notion that there was any lesser commitment in a year subsequent to 2000 - or is now - appears redundant.


I refer to previous unanswered correspondence on this error - see below.


I have previously indicated my puzzlement at the Trust Unit appearing to propose on 23 September a final decision on complaints never assessed by the Executive. 

I propose that unless the Trust can find evidence to back up its claim, it inform the Executive of the problem so that both reporting and complaints can be dealt with by reference to reliable information.



 Yours sincerely,


Matt Berkley








From: Matt Berkley <>
Date: 25 September 2015 at 11:27
Subject: Urgent. Request for immediate retraction
To: Trust Editorial <>,,

Dear Mr Towers, Ms O'Brien and Ms Buckle,....


On 15 September 2015 I wrote to Mr Towers, Ms O'Brien and Mr Purnell ...

The same email explains a significant factual error by the Trustees in their decision issued on 19 June.

The Trustees appear to have based their opinion that an error was not duly inaccurate, on a false premiss that the UN "committed" to the easier MDG targets in 2001.

The Trust Unit response ignores this.

It only takes 30 seconds to ask the UN librarians:






On 28 August 2015 at 15:41, Trust Editorial <> wrote:

...Please accept this as acknowledgement of receipt of your three emails to the Trust, with attachments, received on 18 August 2015.

We will review the correspondence in the case and reply more fully in due course.





From: Matt Berkley <>
Date: 18 August 2015 at 17:18
Subject: BBC Trust discretionary powers in cases of serious and/or urgent editorial problems

 "Dear Mr Towers and Ms O'Brien, ...
Perhaps it was not clear to members of the ESC that world leaders reaffirmed this pledge in 2005 and 2013, or that the consensus among Reuters, the Times of India, the Guardian, the Independent and the Economist in 2000 was that pledges other than on survival rates had a 2000 baseline."