15 programmes broke the BBC's rulesCredit: BBC
The BBC World News channel has aired a global apology to viewers after it broadcast a series of programmes that breached the corporation's rules on sponsorship or conflict of interest.
The 15 programmes, which aired between 2009 and 2011, were all bought from independent producers – including a series of documentaries about Malaysia made by an independent producer found to have close financial links with the Malaysian government.
After the breaches emerged, the BBC pledged to no longer acquire programmes for a low or nominal cost and no longer accept sponsorship from non-commercial organisations. The broadcaster also said it would review its list of trusted suppliers.
Some of the programmes, which were considered to be current affairs output, should not have been sponsored at all. In other cases, the non-current affairs programmes were sponsored by an organisation that was also featured in the broadcast, which was a breach of the conflict of interest guidelines. All of the programmes either failed to carry sponsor credits or the credits were not prominent enough.
The apology, which was broadcast four times on Saturday, read: "A small number of programmes broadcast on BBC World News between February 2009 and July 2011 broke BBC rules aimed at protecting our editorial integrity.
"These rules ensure that programmes are free, and are seen to be free, from commercial or other outside pressures. Three current affairs programmes were sponsored, which is not allowed. Three other programmes were partly sponsored by external organisations with a direct interest in the subject matter and this too broke our rules.
"In one other programme, the financial relationship between the sponsor and the production company was acceptable but was not made clear enough to viewers.
"In the case of eight other programmes, all of which featured Malaysia, we found that the production company which made the programmes appeared to have a financial relationship with the Malaysian government. This meant there was a potential conflict of interest, though the BBC was not aware of it when the programmes were broadcast.
"None of the programmes breached the BBC guidelines on impartiality and none of the BBC's news bulletins was affected. Editorial integrity is the highest priority for BBC World News, which is why we apologise for these breaches of our normal standards."
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