A Question of Trust

There’s been plenty of debate about the BBC Wales ScrumV Special which aired on 19th January. I wrote about my impressions of the recording and subsequent broadcast here.

However there hasn’t been a response from the BBC. A group of us who were at the recording have written a letter of complaint to the BBC Trust and the BBC Complaints Department. The contents of that letter are reproduced below.

We write to you with concerns over the recent ScrumV programme on the 19th January on BBC Wales having been audience members and subsequently viewers of the show.

We appreciate that this may generally sit with the BBC Complaints department and have copied them in on this correspondence so they may also respond accordingly but as there are question marks over several issues such as editorial content and commercial relationships, we thought it best to address the issue to yourselves also. 

The show was sold to us as a ‘Question Time’ warts and all format, intentionally shot over a short period to get some answers from the panel and an honest viewpoint of the current situation in Welsh rugby with plenty of interaction, discussion and questions from a varied audience of regional, club and international supporters of all ages and genders.

Many of us did a great deal of preparation in anticipation of a ground-breaking show in respect of rugby in Wales and we were hugely disappointed to instead listen to the panel discuss pre-planned topics with a handful of opinions from the audience rather than questions and no opportunities to put any questions forward to the panel. The production team had specifically asked us to provide questions prior to the recording. None of these questions were used.

We were led to believe that the programme would be in the Question Time style. Before the recording started we were encouraged to put our hands up during the show if we had any questions or wanted to express our opinions. We were also encouraged to make our feelings known through applause or boos so the show would accurately reflect the audience’s mood.

In respect of the format of the show we left the studio disenchanted and frustrated having prepared and taken time out of our weekends to travel from all over Wales. We appreciate that the set-up of the show is entirely the BBC’s prerogative, but we feel we were invited to the show under false pretences. We were led to expect an interactive programme but it was nothing of the sort.

Our frustration turned to anger when we watched the recording later that day. We had not expected much having been there, but as the very least we thought we’d left the studio safe in the knowledge that whilst we weren’t able to direct questions at the panel or voice our concerns or approval, we did express our feelings through the applause, laughter and boos. However, it transpired that this wasn’t reflected in the final edit.

Several of the comments made by Roger Lewis were followed by jeering and various comments were made by us in the audience. However, the audience reaction only came across once during the broadcast version of the show, which made the debate seem much more amicable and considerably less confrontational than it was. Even some of the more confrontational comments from the panel and host were edited out, for example when Gareth Lewis pushed Roger Lewis for an answer as to whether the WRU had looked to set up new regions.

There were several further examples of this with what appeared to be the one common theme that the show was edited in order to be favourable to the WRU and Roger Lewis. For those of us in the studio there was no question that there was a very clear discontent with the WRU from the majority of the audience which did not come across in the final edit.

The whole WRU/RRW/Welsh Rugby debate has been poorly reported by BBC Wales and ScrumV, after being very late arriving at the party the impartiality has been questionable on simply too many occasions. You only have to look at the way the impasse is being reported by both local and national newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian, The Rugby Paper and Evening Post to see a balanced unbiased view on the topic; indeed Paul Rees’ article in the Guardian on the ScrumV programme in question (he was a panellist on the programme but was given limited opportunity to speak) speaks volumes on the standard and impartiality of the show and reporting of the topic.

This raises many questions over not only the individual show but also whether BBC Wales is profoundly compromised by their commercial relationship with the WRU and/or its employees. The indisputable difference between the unedited and edited version can’t be masqueraded as coincidence or poor editing so there appears to be something untoward. We know that the WRU were accompanied by their legal representatives when they attended the recording and we are concerned that the presence of these representatives may have adversely affected the balance of the programme which went to air.

We anticipate that BBC Wales Complaints will be well versed in respect of responding to this issue as they will no doubt already have had complaints on the matter. We expect that the BBC Trust will be able to delve a little deeper than the likely response from BBC Wales Complaints (having to edit the show as it overran, giving the panel sufficient airtime or whatever stock answers are generally given) and give us a meaningful response.

The public generally look to the BBC for unbiased and objective news and content and BBC Wales and ScrumV’s recent actions and coverage have brought into question whether the BBC is acting correctly in their role as a public service broadcaster and we implore you to fully investigate this. We feel that we have very real and legitimate concerns and we would be reassured to know that this issue is being treated seriously and would welcome any feedback you could give us and if you require any further information from us we are more than happy to assist.

2 thoughts on “A Question of Trust”

  1. ro, I agree with you.

    I’ll add this, that has been missed out.

    The French have negotiated a new contract with Canal+ to the tune of some E60m (The Top 14 does not have a sponsor either). But Binsport, who also put in a bid which they say was for E10m more, are threatening to take the French League to court because they didn’t follow the correct process.

    If that’s not enough the owner of Toulon has stated that the top handfull of clubs (i.e. Toulon) should get very much more of the cake than lower teams. This extra money he wants to spend on more Southern Hemisphere stars to pull in more bums on seats. So, if he doesn’t get his way he will ban Canal+ cameras from Toulon and if the NLF doesn’t like it he’ll pull Toulon out of the league as well.

    Leigh could be looking for a game or two!

    That doesn’t even include the fact that Guy Noves has been complaining that Toulous is one of the few teams in the NLF to develop players for the national team. As a result, in the fortnight before playing England he had to put out virtually a development side. This is because the agreement to release the players included teams from the Pro D2, which he says, should have nothing to do with it.

    However, Saint-Andre said last weekend that he’s had to start looking at players in the Pro D2 for the International Squad because there aren’t enough in the Top 14.

    Think we’ve got problems?

    Our regions are allowing themselves to be conned, mainly by top 6 English clubs to be pulled into their own selfish, distructive battle.

    The only reasons the top 6 English clubs don’t like the ERC is because they don’t run it (the owner of Saracens said “we’re 60 million people and we’re being out-voted by these smaller countries”) and their not winning it every year. Remember the English and French have a very big advantage putting in 6 clubs each, but the Irish (on behalf of the Celtic Pro12 – the best league in the northern hemisphere, as results prove) keep beating them.

  2. I read your impressions of the Scrum V programme but once I read the piece about Paul Reese and excellent in the same sentence I gave up. Rees is a mouth piece for the club owners in English rugby and his coverage of the club v union problems is appalling. From an outsider it seems the Welsh Regions are being used by the club owners in England (and their mouthpieces) to fight the Union ‘right’ to rule the game. If the Regions unilaterially breakaway from the WRU they are finished. The RFU dont want em and there is considerable rumblings of dissent coming from some of the English league clubs. I also dislike the personal attacks which are all to commen in this debate. Lewis, McCafferty, the ERC chief (who’s name escapes me at the moment) have all come in for some nasty treatment by people who should really know better. I will nail my colours here and say I dont believe rugby is best served by private club owners interests being put ahead of the Unions, who I believe have the interests of the game as their number one priority. It is hard to see how a continuous financial loss by the majority of clubs in Wales and England is a sustainable model going forwqard. The new TV deal will not change that!

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