Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, writes:
Last September I wrote about an article by Chris Packham in BBC Wildlife magazine in which, amongst other things, he labelled everyone involved in traditional land management, hunting and shooting as “the nasty brigade”.
As I pointed out then the BBC has editorial guidelines which state that its presenters should not engage in debate in ‘controversial’ issues, but Chris Packham already had a track record for this sort of thing having been censured for using social media to brand farmers involved in the Government badger cull trials as “Brutalist thugs, liars and frauds”. It seemed fairly clear therefore that unless the BBC could stop Mr Packham from abusing the position it had given him he should no longer be employed by the BBC.
This fairly logical comment caused a certain amount of excitement. It was widely reported as a call for Packham to be sacked and the usual suspects decided that it was the perfect opportunity to deify, rather than dismiss him. Chris Packham himself took to YouTube in an emotional, if incoherent, response in which he encouraged people to join animal rights organisations, again in clear breach of BBC guidelines.
Meanwhile the Alliance made an official complaint to the BBC about both the original BBC Wildlife magazine article and subsequent breaches of editorial guidelines. Complaining to the BBC was in one sense pointless as it had judged that its ‘talent’ was innocent before the complaint arrived, and said so repeatedly. However, an initial complaint to the BBC is necessary if an issue is eventually going to be considered by the BBC Trust so for the last 10 months we have been quietly pursuing that complaint. Two weeks ago the BBC Trust was presented with a lengthy and thorough investigation and agreed a ‘finding’.
I am raising this issue now for two reasons. The first is that Chris Packham’s campaigning activity has become increasingly obsessive and extreme during the complaints process and is reaching something of a fever pitch. A classic example occurred yesterday in Parliament where MPs used Mr Packham’s views in support of calls to ban snares. The second is that the BBC Trust has informed us that it will not be publishing its ‘finding’ until at least mid-September. We do not think this delay is in any way reasonable especially as the BBC seems to have washed its hands of any responsibility for its presenter who now has free rein to promote animal rights propaganda. The timing is particularly relevant because the delay in publishing the Trust’s ‘finding’ extends over the ‘glorious twelfth’, and one of Mr Packham’s particular obsessions is grouse shooting.
Our Chairman, Simon Hart, has therefore written to the BBC Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead asking her to publish its ‘finding’ immediately. As Simon said in that letter the Alliance cannot stand by and continue to allow Mr Packham to use the status the BBC has given him to spread propaganda which has a direct impact on the lives of our supporters.