Some of you in the West may have seen BBC Inside Out West last night (Monday, 11th March). The BBC approached the Alliance after travelling with hunt saboteurs to meets and filming hunts. Permission to film was not sought, the hunts were not aware that they were going to be filmed, nor that they were being filmed by the BBC, until they challenged the journalists. The hunts did not subsequently give consent for the filming.
We believe this is unacceptable and in breach of both the Ofcom code and BBC Editorial Guidelines. For this reason neither the Alliance or the hunts were willing to give an interview, answer allegations from hunt saboteurs or make a statement. The BBC ended up running an interview from 2014 with a Master and huntsman from another part of the country.
The way the BBC went about this programme was a great shame. The Alliance will always work to provide access for the BBC and other broadcasters to hunts and have done so on dozens of occasions. Hunts have nothing to hide (as the footage the BBC did gather showed), but it is completely unacceptable to treat them in a way the BBC would not treat any other group. BBC journalists would not turn up unannounced at any other legal event being carried out on private property to film people without their knowledge or consent, and expect them to answer questions when a camera is put in their face. We will be pursuing this matter with the BBC.
BBC Inside Out's decision to go about the film in this way was especially sad because two things were very clear from it:
1) All of the hunting shown was entirely legal. There was some footage of hunt sabs running around the countryside fairly cluelessly, but not a suggestion of a fox or any other mammal being pursued. As ever there was not a jot of evidence to support allegations of illegal hunting from the activists.
2) The behaviour of hunt saboteurs was anti-social, unlawful and designed to intimidate. We welcome the broadcast of images of black-clad, masked activists. The purpose of this uniform could not be clearer to any reasonable person. As the journalist noted they seek to intimidate, and cause alarm and distress.
This footage and much more that hunts are providing to us is the basis of discussions we are, and will be having, with police forces around the country. The sort of behaviour displayed in this programme would be deemed unacceptable in any urban or suburban context and it is just as unacceptable in the countryside.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Just last month the Countryside Alliance submitted a formal complaint directly to Ofcom about a biased report on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme. Much like the Inside Out West report, the BBC did not ask permission to film the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. We will continue to challenge the BBC about its approach to filming hunts and will issue an update on our complaint once we receive a reply.