26.9.05

Ofcom criticises BBC over 7/7 bombing footage


The latest OFCOM bulletin published today criticises BBC News and News 24 over their coverage of the July 7th London bombings. Among the harrowing news pictures screened on various channels that day, the BBC showed footage of a critically ill man being stretchered into hospital as medics tried to resuscitate him.

While this image had also been used by other broadcasters, the BBC had not properly put it in the context that the severity of the situation demanded. The news anchor had merely tossed over to the pictures with the generic intro 'let's take a look at some of the pictures coming in from the Royal London (hospital)'.

MediaBeak's view:
Its one thing streaming live pictures that contain troubling images but there are two things that need to be remembered (and for which in Mediabeak's view the BBC was rightly rapped):

1: If one has live pictures being fed into a programme that contain graphic images of injury, violence or of a similarly disturbing and personal nature, insofar as one takes the editorial decision not to cut away from them or switch back to the studio or another feed, then one should ensure that the presenter puts them in context in an appropriate and sensitive manner.

2: If one is working with a tape or feed that is 'as live' but not actually streaming live into the programme, then one should edit out graphic images of this nature until they can be properly packaged in context.

Ofcom's decision stated:
"It appeared to us that the pictures were used generically and the commentary did not reflect the seriousness of the images being transmitted. We welcome the BBC’s admission that the images had not been viewed properly, and its acknowledgement that they should not have been put to air in such a manner."

In relation to ITV's news coverage the regulator concluded:
"The script established a clear narrative context and the pictures were sensitively ‘written to’. We considered this was an appropriate treatment of the incident, given the very exceptional events of the day and did not breach the Code."

While Channel 4 who also used the pictures was held not to be n breach of the code:
"The pictures were not used casually and the item was voiced appropriately. The script referred to the timings of the bombings but did not fully reflect the enormity of the images that were being transmitted. Nevertheless, their use was not careless and – on balance – we consider that Channel 4 also had not breached the Programme Code."

More:
Ofcom
Ofcom Complaints Bulletin 26-09-05
MediaGuardian.co.uk