Thomas rapped over TV report

BBC admits inaccuracies

The BBC has admitted that comic Mark Thomas made inaccurate statements in a controversial report into illegal file-sharing.

Musician Feargal Sharkey, now head of industry body UK Music, had complained that the comic and activist’s report in the Culture Show was 'biased and prejudicial' and did not live up to the corporation’s commitment on accuracy.

In his report, which aired on BBC Two in February, Thomas argued against the Digital Economy Bill – now law – saying it enabled copyright holders to cut off people's internet access on the ‘bare minimum of evidence’. He also claimed the measures would criminalise people who illegally downloaded films and music online.

Sharkey demanded an on-air retraction and apology and took his complaint to the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee after his concerns were largely rejected by producers and managers.

In its ruling today, the independent committee rejected most of Sharkey’s complaints, saying Thomas's report was an ‘authored’ piece and was ‘not to be taken as if it were a report by a BBC presenter or reporter’.

But it did accept that some inaccuracies had entered the piece as Thomas paraphrased the ‘legal complexities’ of the bill. And it upheld a complaint of inaccuracy about Thomas’s assertion that Ministers could amend the law on copyright without parliamentary scrutiny.

‘On this issue, the Committee found that the report had not retained a respect for factual accuracy,’ today’s ruling found.

Sharkey claimed Thomas had given more than 80 per cent of his report over to critics of the bill, but the committee ruled that the programme had not breached guidelines on impartiality.

‘While Mark Thomas had expressed strong personal opinions in his links to camera, this was permitted by the guidelines on authored programmes,’ the committee ruled. ‘All the main views, including those that contradicted Mark Thomas's, were reflected.’

Published: 26 Oct 2010

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