05 March 2010

BBC Confirms Russia Today Report on Supposed Chavez Haiti Earthquake Conspiracy Theory is "Innacurate"

Following the earlier reports from Russia Today, and mentioned here, attributing to Hugo Chavez a conspiracy theory about the Haiti Earthquake being caused by the US, Charlie Brooker of the BBC's Newswipe programme repeated the accusations. As this was not true I made the following official complaint to the BBC: 

"{Programme Name:} Newswipe
{Transmission Date:} 03/02/2010 
{Summary:} Newswipe Charlie Brooker and Hugo Chavez

{Complaint:} Yesterday 03 February 2010 on BBC's Newswipe programme at about  2.05 into the programme, Charlie Brooker said this: "And in astonishing scenes carefully outlined on the informative Russia Today, Hugo 'one plane' * Chavez went on to blame America for causing the disaster - by testing an
earthquake inducing super-weapon.".

He then played a clip from Russia Today:  "He adds that this time it was only a drill and the final target is destroying and taking over Iran.".

Of course, Chavez did NOT blame the US (why do BBC reporters always say 'America' which is the name of the continent, and not use the country's name  The United States? Is it ignorance?), in fact Chavez didn't say anything at  all.

It's extremely disappointing to hear someone on the BBC with such shoddy and  misleading journalism. If Charlie Brooker had bothered to investigate a little (surely that is what he is paid for as a 'journalist' on a programme called NEWSwipe?) he would have found that the Russia Today report  was a case of extremely careless and shoddy journalism itself.

In fact, the Russia Today report quoted an article in the Spanish Daily ABC.  ABC in turn quoted a report on Venezuelan state broadcaster VIVE. In fact, the link in the ABC article to the VIVE website takes one to a VIVA page with nothing but headlines.

The actual VIVE report makes no mention at all of Chavez or any member of the Venezuelan government having said anything at all about this, it doesn't mention how it came to read the report at all.

Surely, a member of the public doesn't need to point out to the BBC that quoting a report on the BBC isn't the same as quoting the British government  or its head of government?

Surely, the BBC, with its huge resources could have done better than an ordinary citizen such as myself?

It is imperative that Charlie Brooker make a full apology on air for his shoddy journalism. This is a classic case of a lazy journalist using false information to attack a western bogeyman.  Call it misinformation,  disinformation or plain propaganda this sort of journalism has no place at the BBC.

I'm sure the BBC Spanish department can confirm everything I am complaining about."

On 01 March 2010 I finally got the following reply confirming what I complained about:

"Dear Mr Sketchley

Thank you for you contacting us regarding "Newswipe with Charlie Brooker" on 3rd February, specifically the programme's inclusion of the claim by Russia Today that Hugo Chavez had blamed the United States for causing the Haiti earthquake.

In hindsight it appears that the Russia Today coverage attributing to Hugo Chavez the comment about a US super weapon was in fact inaccurate.

Although "Newswipe" is primarily an entertainment programme offering an irreverent and satirical look at how the media present news stories, rather than offering comment on news events themselves or investigating those events, the programme does report on actual events. In this instance, the programme showed the clip in good faith as it had been widely reported.

I would like to assure you that the section in question will be edited out of any future repeats of the programme.

We'd like to thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Simon Wilson
Executive Editor, Comedy"

I am not happy with this reply and have made the following follow-up official complaint:

"I received a reply to my original complaint from Simon Wilson Executive Editor, Comedy.

The reply is not acceptable. The damage done by Mr Brooker has been done and nothing short of a correction on air by Mr Brooker or a Newsipe presenter is acceptable.

Mr Wilson has already accepted that "the comment about a US super weapon was in fact inaccurate."

I insist that this information be given, in the form of correction/apology to Newswipe viewers, as otherwise they will continue to think this claim was true.

I am still awaiting a reply.

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