These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Programme Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for SKY NEWS
Date & time: Monday 31 March
Complaint from: Staff investigation
On 19 November 2003, the ITC’s Sanctions Sub Committee met to consider whether a report on Sky News, first broadcast on 31 March 2003, breached the provisions of the ITC Programme Code and, if so, whether a sanction was warranted.
The report in question purported to show a cruise missile being fired at Iraq by HMS Splendid from beneath the Persian Gulf. It subsequently became apparent, and was accepted by Sky, that the filming had in fact taken place when the submarine was in dock. Footage of the missile being fired had been added to the report using library material.
The Committee viewed the report and considered both written and oral submissions from Sky. It found that the report breached two sections of the Programme Code. Section 3.4 provides:-
“In addition to the general requirements relating to matters of political or industrial controversy or current public policy, the Act requires that any news, given in whatever form, must be presented with due accuracy and impartiality...”
The Committee concluded that the report had not been presented with due accuracy. The commentary had implied that the firing of the missile was part of the hostilities then in progress. It was not.
Section 2.12(i) provides:-
“The use of dramatised “reconstructions” in factual programmes is a legitimate means of obtaining greater authenticity, so long as it does not distort reality. Whenever a reconstruction is used in a documentary, current affairs or news programme it should accurately reflect the known facts and be labelled unless there is no reasonable possibility of viewers being misled”
The report had not been labelled as a reconstruction of real events, with the consequence that viewers were misled as to the nature of what they were watching.
The Committee considered that the breaches of the Programme Code by Sky were of such seriousness that a sanction was justified. Audiences are reliant on the accuracy of news reports, particularly during times of war. Nevertheless, the Committee did accept that there were strong mitigating factors. These included:-
- once aware of the issue, Sky did not seek to evade or minimise the importance of what had occurred;
- the fact that Sky had relied on the skill and judgement of an experienced reporter, whose reports had never previously proved to be inaccurate;
- the particular security constraints under which the report was filmed
- that this was an isolated incident and the only occasion when Sky’s reporting of the Iraq war had been called into question; and
- the excellent compliance record of Sky News overall.
In all the circumstances, and having regard to the sanctions imposed in previous cases where the requirement for due accuracy has been breached, the Committee concluded that a fine of £50,000 was appropriate.