BBC apologises to Help for Heroes over 'misleading' Newsnight report

Corporation admits that the piece, broadcast last August, was unfair and failed to represent properly the charity's response to criticisms


The BBC has apologised to Help for Heroes for "unfair" criticism of the charity in a Newsnight report last August.

A report by BBC Newsnight and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism broadcast on 9 August included a number of wounded troops expressing concern about the amount the charity was spending on building recovery centres, rather than on everyday care. Some former servicemen said they had found it difficult to access support centres run by the charity on military bases.

The story was also reported by a number of other BBC news programmes and on the BBC website. Help for Heroes complained to the BBC about the coverage, which it said unfairly portrayed the charity’s work.

It is understood that donations to the charity have been down since the programme was broadcast.

A spokesman for H4H declined to comment on the level of donations but said one six-figure gift had been withdrawn by a corporate supporter directly after the programme was broadcast.

Following an investigation by its Editorial Complaints Unit, the BBC has said it "accepts that its coverage was misleading and unfair to Help for Heroes".

"The BBC gave the impression that Help for Heroes was responsible for shortcomings in the provision of support to wounded veterans," it said in its apology, which was broadcast on BBC2, Radio 1 and Radio 2 yesterday. "The Editorial Complaints Unit found no evidence to support this suggestion.

"Although it was legitimate to report the concerns of veterans, the BBC portrayed criticisms about overall support by a number of agencies as specific criticisms of Help for Heroes. This unfair impression was reinforced by our coverage of the story in other outlets."

The complaints unit also said the Newsnight report contained interviews with two contributors which were edited in a way that were misrepresentative of their views.

"Although a representative of Help for Heroes took part in a studio discussion that followed the Newsnight report, the response of Help for Heroes to the criticisms wasn’t properly reflected," it said. "This contributed further to the unfair impression of Help for Heroes, for which the BBC wishes to apologise."

The corporation will not be offering any compensation, a spokesman for the BBC said.

Bryn and Emma Parry, co-founders of Help for Heroes, said in a statement that the Newsnight report was a "complete shock" to them, and to the men and women they were helping to recover.

"We are grateful the BBC has admitted it got the story completely wrong and has finally apologised," they said. "We are pleased the BBC has taken this matter seriously, and issued what we believe to be one of their biggest apologies in the past four years. We now consider the matter closed and look forward to working with the BBC in the future."

Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said he recognised that mistakes were made and said he had since put in place processes to ensure that such mistakes would not be made again.

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