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Thread: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

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    Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Last night I watched News Night and I was appalled that a leading politician abused Steven Messham but the BBC will not name him, I was so mad with the BBC that I have sent in a complaint about how angry I am, so many people in top places are being protected because of said libel writs that can taken out against the BBC.

    It all stinks.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Not just libel. If a criminal investigation is in progress, publication could prejudice the investigation, and could itself be a criminal offence.
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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff I View Post
    Last night I watched News Night and I was appalled that a leading politician abused Steven Messham but the BBC will not name him, I was so mad with the BBC that I have sent in a complaint about how angry I am, so many people in top places are being protected because of said libel writs that can taken out against the BBC.

    It all stinks.
    You have to remember aswell as the investigation being underway, this was many years ago. There's not going to be a wealth of evidence so the BBC need to tread carefully.
    We don't want trial by press, or vigilantes attacking the guy only to discover the name was wrong or the guys innocent.
    You have to remember to be rational aswell, these are still only allegations untill the CPS choose to prosecute.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff I View Post
    ....

    It all stinks.
    No, it doesn't.

    What would stink is if TV channels or newspapers could go about naming people left, right and centre, and alleging they have committed serious offences, unless they can stand the allegations up in court.

    This protects all sorts of people that are, frankly, innocent until proven guilty, from allegations that could wreck relationships, destroy careers and ruin reputations.

    So, there are standards journalists have to work to, backed up by laws, and despite some of the more flamboyant newspaper stories, that even applies to the tabloids. It can get very expensive if they publish and cannot back it up, which is why lawyers always oversee contentious or controversial exposés. In general, the procedures will include :-

    - evidence from multiple sources
    - documentary evidence backing it up
    - sworn statements (affidavits) from witnesses.

    One of the reasons some Savile stories that might have brought things out earlier than happened is that witnesses were prepared to tell their stories, but not to sign affidavits. Without that, there are legal issues with their accounts, if the publisher later has to rely on it to stand up their story.

    And this is not just about protecting the powerful. Suppose you were accused, presumably falsely, of sexually abusing a child? Do you want the story published, accounts in the papers, you neighbours all looking at you as if you were a total slime-bucket, probably lose your job, risk getting beaten up in the street? And, at the end of an investigation that could and likely would take months, maybe over a year, all charges are dropped.

    Because charges were dropped, you'll never get your day in court. A lot of people will assume that you're guilty, and that it's just that adequate evidence couldn't be found. If you're a teacher, you've probably been suspended, at the least, all this time, and someone else recruited to do your job, Besides, all the kids have heard the allegations and will make your life a living hell if you go back, never mind that backlash from parents of those kids. I mean, would you want your kids taught by someone that had had those allegations made? I wouldn't.

    And all over allegations that were false, yet the likelihood is you'll never convince everyone of that, and are probably finished as a teacher. After all, good luck getting another job after those allegations.

    There's a damn good reason why allegations such as those, that have at the very least a huge potential to be vastly damaging, even if false, aren't bandied about on what at the moment appears to be largely unsubstantiated allegations.

    So the correct procedure, for the BBC, other TV stations, and print media is to be very careful indeed about what they say. And frankly, even if they can stand it up in court, the responsible thing is to hold off and hand it over to the police, and let them do a detailed investigation.

    Which is what the BBC have done. They've raised the profile of the allegations, which has the effect of raising the stakes for the police, and effectively means even a powerful politician cannot sweep it under the table.

    Far from it stinking, last night's Newsnight coverage actually pretty much guarantees a full investigation, because believe me, both the BBC and the print media would be all over any attempt at a political cover-up like flies on a fresh ....erm .... pile.

    What that story does is ensure it won't just be quietly forgotten, or covered up. Your outrage at the BBC is wholly misplaced .... over this, at least.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Never a truer word spoken Saracen

    I happen to know someone who was falsely accused of meddling with a child, it came out in court that they were wrong and not only had my friend done nothing, nobody had and the child made it all up to get attention.

    Rifling off names without due process is reckless at best and bordering criminal.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    And this is exactly why the name should not have been revealed

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20277732
    Last edited by peterb; 10-11-2012 at 09:08 AM. Reason: Add missing word!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb View Post
    And this is exactly why the name should have been revealed

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20277732
    Should not?

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Out of interest, the thing I've been missing with this story - at which point was McAlpine linked in the press, if the BBC never named him?

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    He was not linked on the news night story, they had a name of someone but they did not go with it, I think the press got hold of the name because the Gaurdian published it first and blamed the BBC.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff I View Post
    He was not linked on the news night story, they had a name of someone but they did not go with it, I think the press got hold of the name because the Gaurdian published it first and blamed the BBC.
    Nope, afraid not. The Guardian couldn't have been first. That would have broken laws aswell as many guidelines.
    The newsnight story identified the guy, and although they didn't say the guys name on air it was all over twitter and facebook.
    It was their 'investigation' so the information must have come from them originally. That's why the head of the BBC has admitted blame over this.
    Yet another example of why names must not be mentioned.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy3536 View Post
    Nope, afraid not. The Guardian couldn't have been first. That would have broken laws aswell as many guidelines.
    The newsnight story identified the guy, and although they didn't say the guys name on air it was all over twitter and facebook.
    It was their 'investigation' so the information must have come from them originally. That's why the head of the BBC has admitted blame over this.
    Yet another example of why names must not be mentioned.
    But Newsnight didn't identify the guy. They narrowed it down to something like " a senior Tory politician in the '70s", or some-such, but didn't identify him or give enough information on it's own to do so. That's why there was so much speculation.

    I think you'll find there have been some allegations floating around for quite a while, and if you put what Newsnight said together with some other things that have been 'out there' but that they didn't say, you could draw some conclusions.

    For reference, you do not have to name someone to defame them. The actual test is whether what you say would be enough for acquaintances to reasonably be able to identify him. And note, it doesn't even need to be enough for everybody, or most people, to identify the person referred to. It just has to be someone. And for that matter, the person "identifying" who is referred to does not have to be absolutely sure, they just have to "reasonably believe" it is the person identified.

    Any journalist doing work that possibly involves defamation damn well ought to know that the standard here is fairly loose, and that is, in my opinion, why the BBC were fairly vague.

    On the other hand, the apparent absence of some fairly basic bits of fact-checking, which is certainly how the story seems to be appearing, smacks of gross journalistic incompetence, of the first order, and an astonishing failure on the part of the journalists, their editorial bosses and legal oversight.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    But Newsnight didn't identify the guy. They narrowed it down to something like " a senior Tory politician in the '70s", or some-such, but didn't identify him or give enough information on it's own to do so. That's why there was so much speculation.

    I think you'll find there have been some allegations floating around for quite a while, and if you put what Newsnight said together with some other things that have been 'out there' but that they didn't say, you could draw some conclusions.

    For reference, you do not have to name someone to defame them. The actual test is whether what you say would be enough for acquaintances to reasonably be able to identify him. And note, it doesn't even need to be enough for everybody, or most people, to identify the person referred to. It just has to be someone. And for that matter, the person "identifying" who is referred to does not have to be absolutely sure, they just have to "reasonably believe" it is the person identified.

    Any journalist doing work that possibly involves defamation damn well ought to know that the standard here is fairly loose, and that is, in my opinion, why the BBC were fairly vague.

    On the other hand, the apparent absence of some fairly basic bits of fact-checking, which is certainly how the story seems to be appearing, smacks of gross journalistic incompetence, of the first order, and an astonishing failure on the part of the journalists, their editorial bosses and legal oversight.
    In the Newsnight investigation, the alleged victim identified the MP to the investigating team. Although the name didn't air, that is where the rumours started and how the name, that he implicated to newsnight reporters ended up all over twitter and facebook.
    That is why the BBC has apologised and why the former MP who was wrongly identified is looking to sue the BBC.
    Simple fact is someone from the show has put the information out there, whether it was telling someone or putting it on the internet themselves. The victim only named the wrong guy for Newsnight, no one else.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy3536 View Post
    In the Newsnight investigation, the alleged victim identified the MP to the investigating team. Although the name didn't air, that is where the rumours started and how the name, that he implicated to newsnight reporters ended up all over twitter and facebook ...
    There's a leap in logic in there.

    The name was identified to the Newsnight team, but not aired by them. Yet you said originally "The Newsnight story identified the guy, and although they didn't say the guys name on air it was all over twitter and facebook" and it was that identification that I queried.

    They didn't name him, and they didn't give anything like enough information on it's own to select a given individual from an admittedly relatively small group. That, I rather imagine, was a deliberate if perhaps misguided editorial decision.

    That is certainly where the current furore started, but it's the leap from the BBC not naming him to the name ending up all over Twitter, etc, that is the unjustified logical leap when you go on to say
    Simple fact is someone from the show has put the information out there, whether it was telling someone or putting it on the internet themselves.
    If that is a fact, simple or otherwise, where is the evidence to support it? I'd love to see it.

    Or is it simply supposition that someone from the BBC leaked the name?

    It may have been someone from the team, but these allegations, or something very similar, have been out there for a while. If you have the access, and can put together things that have been said before, then a juxtaposition of the BBC remarks and other information may well, in the sense required by a libel judge, "identify" who the allegations were about, but that is only because the meaning of the word "identify" in libel cases, and any commonplace definition of the word are very different.

    Bear in mind that the Newsnight story did not rely solely on the allegations from Messham. There were statements from another (untraceable) witness from over 10 years ago. that was part of the basis for running the story - that it was not unsubstantiated allegations fro ma single source. The story itself was not new. It dates back 12 years, at least, so the leaking of the name could have come from any number of sources, especially seeing as most of it was rampant speculation.

    So again, where is the evidence of it being any kind of fact that someone from Newsnight leaked the name?

    Here's a possibility of how the name got out, though it's merely a speculation of how it might have happened. Messham knew the name reported to Newsnight. According to various media reports, Messham had that name because police showed him a picture, years ago, and claimed it was Lord McAlpine. So, whilke it could have been a Newsnight tema member that leaked it, it could also have been Messham, or any of the police aware of the details of that earlier allegation. Messham now says the police identified the picture of his abuser as Lord McAlpine, and he may well have genuinely believed that to be correct. But from those sources alone, it's clear that any speculation could have originated with a number of people with nothing to do with the Newsnight team.

    As far as I can tell, the main "simple fact" we have, for now at least, is that we simply do not know how the name got out there, as speculation, until the Guardian specifically named him as having been misidentified, and as far as I'm aware, no mainstream media organisation, print or TV, mentioned Lord McAlpine by name until that.

    That, by the way, is the real story here. How come the Guardian can establish it was a misidentification, apparently pretty readily, and the BBC Newsnight journalists couldn't? It seems to me to be impossible to conclude other than that the journalistic standards at the BBC were calamitously lousy, on this story at least.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    As far as I can tell, the main "simple fact" we have, for now at least, is that we simply do not know how the name got out there, as speculation, until the Guardian specifically named him as having been misidentified, and as far as I'm aware, no mainstream media organisation, print or TV, mentioned Lord McAlpine by name until that.
    No, but a Guardian journo did on twitter suggest that McAlpine had been named by someone.

    Heck, I stumbled upon this:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...l-8303851.html
    Which is about 4g, and a rant, then suddenly decsends about McAlpine. The phrase "no smoke without fire" is branded about, despite the person who made the original accusations saying it was mistaken identity.

    The point I'm making is that these journolists who published smoke whilst carefully not ever publishing the fire should really clear up the fact they had nothing at all.
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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheAnimus View Post
    ....

    The point I'm making is that these journolists who published smoke whilst carefully not ever publishing the fire should really clear up the fact they had nothing at all.
    Well, the apology on Newsnight, and the program segment that accompanied it, did pretty much clear up the fire, at least to the extent that McAlpine was involved.

    It seems pretty likely, from what I've read, Messham was systematically abused. So there was fire in that sense. The current story was that he was shown a picture of one of his abusers and he was told that the picture was of McAlpine, a "fact" he now denies (that the picture was McAlpine, I mean ,not that he was told it was).

    That suggests that the story of abuse has some fire, but some of the smoke blew onto McAlpine, apparently without any validity at all, and with begger-all evidence of his actual involvement, and grossly incompetent basic journalistic checks by someone at Newsnight before they ran a hugely defamatory story IF anyone could be, in the legal sense, "identified".

    And that, of course, is why any publisher, including HEXUS, and I might add, everybody that posts on here about matters like this, has to be oh-so-careful about what they say, or for HEXUS, what they allow members to say. Fortunately, it's pretty rare even for our members, who quite reasonably aren't thinking about defamation when they post, to cross the line. With rare exceptions, and they often seem to occur late on a Friday or Saturday night, for some reason, they have better judgement than that.

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    Re: Why does the BBC only name dead people as abusers?

    no one anywhere seems to be asking why someone would be shown a picture and told it was someone else though. did he do something and that was a clue or was it a failed way of trying to set him up?

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