BBC corrects Leveson Bill error - but does it lead by example?

11 January 2013

After the campaign group Hacked Off this week published its draft 'Leveson Bill', the BBC reported something that might have suprised many of its readers:

"As well as MPs, organisations and private individuals are able to introduce Parliamentary bills."

As you might expect, this isn't quite right. Hacked Off's bill hasn't been introduced to Parliament, it's just a draft proposal. Nor would they be able to if they wanted to - Public Bills such as one that implements some or all of the Leveson recommendations must be introduced either by the Government, or by an MP or Peer.

There is a special type of bill - a Private Bill - which can be promoted by organisations to give themselves powers beyond general laws. But that isn't what is being discussed in relation to Leveson.

So, on Monday Full Fact asked the BBC to correct its article so that readers wouldn't get the wrong idea.

Three days later, the News Online complaints team informed us the story had been amended. The current version of the story contains no trace of any such reference to who is able to introduce bills.

This is great news, and we're pleased to see the BBC reacting swiftly to complaints. Unfortunately however, as there's no evidence on the BBC website that anything has been corrected, only Full Fact readers have any knowledge that what they previously might have read from the BBC was incorrect. 

This is far from ideal. Full Fact told the Leveson Inquiry that corrections should seek to undo, as far as practicable, the harm done by the initial inaccuracy.

This occasion is nevertheless a good example of a publisher resolving an inaccuracy with a complainant in a relatively quick and inexpensive way, avoiding the complications of involving a regulator or complaints body. This is exactly the kind of practice that Lord Justice Leveson recommended in his report:

"I certainly agree that publishers should take more responsibility for their own compliance with standards and that having an effective and independent mechanism for dealing with complaints in-house is an important part of this.

"Members of the new system will be expected to try to resolve complaints directly with the complainant in the first instance."

* Disclosure

Full Fact's Director Will Moy is also a Board Member of the Hacked Off campaign.

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