Sunday, January 20, 2013

Several people I'm aware of complained about BBC Christmas Day news coverage. I was not amongst the complainants, but did ask Robert Pigott for his views about how the Archbishop of Westminster's Christmas Message was dealt with. I contacted Robert on 29th December 2012, providing him with a transcript of the first news report at 1pm - the report about the Archbishop of Westminster's "Christmas Message."

Here is the substantive part of my email to Mr Pigott -

I've been reviewing the BBC's Christmas Day news reports, and wonder if you can help me with one or two queries.
The BBC news at 1pm on Christmas afternoon was introduced by Chris Eakin.
Chris Eakin: The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has used his Christmas Message to make his most outspoken attack yet on the Government's proposals to introduce gay marriage. The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the process had been undemocratic and shambolic. Our Religious Affairs Correspondent, Robert Pigott, reports.
Robert Pigott: (strains of 'Once In Royal David's City') With carols, candles and Holy Communion, Roman Catholics at Westminster Cathedral heralded the coming of Christmas. The Church's leader in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols told them that Christmas was a reminder that human lives could be raised to an entirely new realm. But Archbishop Nichols claimed that this Christmas the Christian ideal of marriage was under threat. He accused the Government of behaving in an Orwellian fashion, and using undemocratic means to create a new sham version of marriage.
Viewers then saw Vincent Nichols (not in the main body of the Cathedral) say the following: "Frankly the process is shambolic. There was no announcement in any party manifesto. There's been no Green Paper, there's been no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are, on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view it's a shambles."
After that you were shown speaking to camera (apparently as people were just leaving the Cathedral)
Robert Pigott: This was Archbishop Nichols' strongest attack yet on the Government's plans for gay marriage. There was real anger in his passionate criticism of the Government's plans, and a call to Catholics to join the political struggle against them. ......
Now, I'm not entirely clear that what the BBC reported the Archbishop as saying in his Christmas Message was indeed said to congregants at a service in Westminster Cathedral . Please could you clarify that point?
The other thing I'd like to know, relating to the above question, is precisely how the interview with Archbishop Nichols came about?
I look forward to hearing from you, and would appreciate it if you could treat this as an urgent request. Thank you.

I sent a reminder to Mr Pigott on 7th January and then again on 9th January. But instead of a reply from Mr Pigott there came a response from the BBC's complaints department, which you can read in my blog last Monday.

The complaints department, as you will see, draws attention to what it says is the difference between Vincent Nichols' "Christmas message" and his "homily." The BBC said "There is a clear distinction between the two."

However if you check the actual words used by Mr Pigott, you will appreciate that he never used the word "homily" in the context of this report. So it seems the BBC is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. Furthermore, the BBC has still not explained exactly how the interview came about and, until such time as they do, it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to assume collusion between the Corporation and the Roman Catholic Church.

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