Sunday, December 20, 2015

How the BBC misled the public about its Sports Personality of the Year shortlist

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2015 shortlist was released on 30th November, with this video explaining how the contenders were chosen. You'll see some members of the Panel talk about their experiences:

Dame Mary Peters: That was hard work - it was so difficult to shortlist down because there was so much, so much talent and there were so many to chose from. But I think we got it right in the end.

Jermaine Jenas: It was the first time I've been involved in it, and it was nice to see how the process happens and how in-depth and how much thought goes into it ....

Although the Panel meeting and those interviews took place on Wednesday 18th November, the BBC's shortlist was not actually published until Monday 30th November 2015.

Hazel Irvine on 18th November 2015

Following publication of the shortlist the wording on some BBC web pages was amended to include the following "[Note: On 30 November 2015, the Panel decided to expand the shortlist from 10 to 12 sportspeople]."

BBC Director General, Lord Tony Hall, was asked about the controversial shortlist when he appeared before a Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday 16th December. (video excerpt)

According to Lord Hall, the SPOTY Panel drew up the shortlist and then added two names "after the remarkable weekend" of the Davis Cup and the Tyson Fury victory. When questioned further, he said "the Panel added those two names, the BBC did not." Hall reiterated his position with "Let me assure you that those two names were a decision made by the entire panel." When pressed, and asked about a report in the Belfast Telegraph, he stated that the Belfast Telegraph report was wrong.

Tony Hall: "The Panel decided - and I wasn't present in the Panel discussions - to name him [Tyson Fury] for his extraordinary achievement .. he's been put on that list because of his sporting prowess ."

Since the start of this month Newsround Blog has made its own separate investigation into the circumstances behind the addition of Tyson Fury and Andy Murray.

Contrary to the Note on this web page, there was no Panel meeting on 30th November 2015, or indeed any other meeting of the Panel subsequent to the one on 18th November 2015.

So did Lord Hall set out to consciously mislead the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, or was it simply that he wasn't in possession of the full facts? Unfortunately Tony Hall has form when it comes to telling untruths to Parliament, as is clear from what happened two years ago.

Another serious problem with BBC's Director-General is that, when it comes to diversity, he never seems to show any interest in LGBT equality.

Newsround Blog has been unable to track down any speech by Tony Hall in which he seeks to promote, or even mentions, LGBT inclusion. In contrast he's put considerable effort into helping out black, ethnic minority and disabled people. One of the BBC SPOTY panelists, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, also participates in an Independent Diversity Action Group, chaired by Lord Hall, himself.

The Director-General made clear the importance he gives to free speech. He told the Committee that the BBC "should be a place where people's views can be heard across a range of opinion in all things." However, Andy West, telling the world that he was "ashamed to work for the BBC when it lacks bravery to admit it is making a mistake," soon resulted in him being silenced, silenced and told that he'd be suspended pending an investigation.

Well, Lord Hall, it turns out that you - not Andy West - are the person who, with your falsehoods, has brought discredit upon our national broadcaster. The BBC's plight will be much worse in the event of a Tyson Fury win. But whatever the outcome tonight, Andy West should receive an apology, and be reinstated without further delay.

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