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McAlpine 'Newsnight' report damns "serious failure of BBC journalism"

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The BBC Trust has found that the BBC was in serious breach of its accuracy guidelines with the broadcast of a Newsnight edition which wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in the North Wales child abuse scandal.

The full report by Ken MacQuarrie into the November 2 broadcast has been published today (December 19), alongside the findings of the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee.

Lord Mcalpine

© Rex Features / Mike Forster/Daily Mail

Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman

© BBC Pictures / Jeff Overs

Jeremy Paxman


> Read the full Finding of the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust

The executive's main findings were as follows:
  • Basic journalistic checks on the story were not applied.
  • The Newsnight team did not make adequate attempts to seek validation for the story beyond what the reporter delivered.
  • The management of the story was inadequate.
  • Jigsaw identification of Lord McAlpine became possible and this risk increased during the day leading up to the broadcast.
  • The decision to broadcast the Newsnight report was wrong.
The trust found that there was a "serious breach" of accuracy guidelines by the broadcast, and that the allegations "were not based on sound evidence and had not been thoroughly tested".

Consequently, the audience had been misled, and with the combination of online speculation, McAlpine had been wrongly identified as an abuser.

The trustees put on record an apology to McAlpine for the "grave breach" and "serious failure of BBC journalism".

Today also saw the publication of the Pollard Review into the axing of a Newsnight investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile.

Ex-Sky News head Pollard found that while then-Newsnight editor Peter Rippon's decision to drop the programme was "flawed", it was also taken in "good faith" and from concerns of a clash with planned tribute programmes for Savile, who had died that October at the age of 84.

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