On March 24th we reported that BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme’s had that morning introduced as a “Syrian refugee”, Hassan Akkad, who slammed the government and the Home Secretary Priti Patel for their new policy of taking more refugees directly from affected countries, and clamping down on illegal migration. We pointed out that the BBC did not mention that the guest was not just a former refugee, Hassan Akkad was now an active Labour Party member, documentary maker and campaigner on refugee related issues.
Guido pointed out that listeners were left with the impression of an ordinary person up against the Home Secretary – not a political activist and Labour Party member who is ideologically against the Home Secretary attacking his opponent. Which, as we said at the time, is all of coursel fine – it was the BBC at fault for not informing their audience of their guest’s background.
The BBC have guidelines on the issue:
We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.
Later in the day on the BBC’s News at One, Hassan Akkad was correctly introduced as having “identified himself to be a Labour Supporter”. Somebody at the BBC has got the memo.
A Guido co-conspirator complained to the BBC about the Today Programme’s lack of candour about Akkad, this morning the BBC officially apologised:
Sent: Fri, 2 Apr 2021 at 11:36Subject: BBC Complaints – Case number CAS-6618360-Y7C7T3
Thanks for contacting us with your feedback about the interview with Hassan Akkad on Today, 24 March.
Mr Akkad’s contribution to the discussion on the government’s proposals to change the asylum seeker system was valuable but that said, we acknowledge he was not introduced as a Labour Party supporter and this was an oversight, for which we apologise.
On financial news channels (like CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) when fund managers are interviewed about their views on the stock market the presenter will often ask them “do you own the stock?” Sometimes there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen saying the fund manager has a position in the company being discussed. This came about after a number of scandals where interviewees had talked up stocks they were long or disparaged stocks they short. The principle is clear, if you have skin in the game, you are not a neutral expert. There should be a similar protocol for talking heads who are political campaigners.