BBC to spend £500k on trust classes

Ben Dowell

Two-hour classes to teach the BBC’s editorial staff how to avoid deceiving viewers are likely to cost around £500,000, the corporation revealed today.

The director of the BBC’s college of journalism, Vin Ray, said that the bill included cover for some of the 17,000 employees participating in the sessions.

“The people doing the course are being paid anyway so we estimate that the cost will not exceed £500,000,” he told journalists at a press briefing today.

Ray is overseeing the initiative, Safeguarding Trust, which the BBC hopes all editorial staff will have completed by the spring.

The programme was introduced to address viewer concerns after the BBC became embroiled in a number of deception rows.

These included the so-called Crowngate affair, in which a misleading clip of the Queen was played at a press launch, and the use of a fake winner on a Blue Peter competition, which led to an unprecedented £50,000 fine from media watchdog Ofcom.

Each Safeguarding Trust session lasts around two hours and involves 20 people participating in a “workshop situation”.

The session begins with an introductory video, featuring a lengthy clip from Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker’s BBC4 shows Screenwipe.

This is followed by BBC news reporter Nick Higham taking viewers through the issues and assessing the distinction between “artifice and deception”.

The remainder of the video shows footage from workshops with members of the public discussing the issue of trust and specific programme clips.

These include an interview involving BBC news presenter Sophie Raworth that contains a number of cutaway and so-called noddy shots as well as a controversial Newsnight film about Gordon Brown that was edited in the wrong order.

Staff taking part in the sessions will be given feedback from the focus groups and told the BBC’s position on each of the clips.

In most cases, the BBC was happy with the editorial conduct, although the re-editing of the Newsnight film has not been deemed acceptable.

So far around 4,300 staff across the whole of the BBC have attended the course, with the remaining 12,700 expected to complete it by March.

Thw BBC director general, Mark Thompson, is to attend his session on Friday, while his deputy Mark Byford has already completed the course.

Anne Morrison, the BBC’s controller of network production, said the programme was not “an honesty course”.

“We cannot teach people to be honest in two hours,” she said. “If they are not honest we should not be employing them.”