Please click here for more information about who I am and why I do this.
The text shown after 1), 2), 3) and 4) is copied exactly from the BBC's daily JV Show web page and I acknowledge their copyright of this text.
The "Find out more..." links to web pages referred to by the JV Show web page are available by clicking on the text following 1), 2), 3) and 4).
"Find out more..." text is only included here when it refers to a non-BBC web page link.
You can follow my occasional postings on Twitter at @JVineBlogMan although @TheJeremyVine has blocked me from following him.
I am subject to the BBC's "expedited complaints handling process" (meaning I'll be ignored) for two years from 25/01/12.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

My appeal letter to the BBC Trust

I finally received a reply (in the form of an emailed 11-page PDF file) from the BBC Trust Unit today, so perhaps this is the time to "go public" with all of this. I apologise for the length of this posting and please, dear blog readers, do not feel compelled to read it all!

This was the contents of my letter to the BBC Trust Unit:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the BBC Trust, 

I have been invited to write to you by Mr Lee Rogers of the BBC Complaints Department. Mr Rogers sent me an email (ref. CAS-1260999-XXXXXX) on 25th January informing me that I was subject to the “BBC’s expedited complaints handling procedure” for a period of two years following “dozens of complaints” that I have allegedly submitted over the past 17 months concerning Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show.

I wish to appeal against Mr Rogers’ decision, and hence my letter to you today.

I am a 50-something-year-old married English man living in North Wales. I started my own business in 2002 which I run from home as a sole trader. My wife is in full-time employment and so I am alone at home for most of the day. BBC Radio, and Radio 2 in particular, provides me with good music, entertainment, news and companionship during that time.

Mr Vine’s programme has always struck me as something of an anomaly and, in my opinion, does not sit well with the rest of Radio 2’s programming. However, Mr Vine’s programme does cover newsworthy stories and sometimes these may be of interest to me. On these occasions I do make a point of listening to his discussions but I rely on the BBC to provide me with well-researched facts about any particular topic, and not misinformed speculation and conjecture.

In order to determine if the programme is going to be of interest to me on any particular day I check the Jeremy Vine Show web page where all four discussion topics are listed. For each topic, the page usually includes a link to BBC or other news media web pages that give some useful background information. I often read these other pages in order to form my own opinion before any discussion takes place.

Mr Vine is always asking his listeners to “Tell us what you think” as part of the necessary audience interaction with his programme, and so I do. His views and mine rarely agree but I would hope that we have a respect of each other’s viewpoint. To this end, we have exchanged several personal emails and Mr Vine has phoned me twice to discuss aspects of his programme, and with the same mutual respect and cordiality. On 17th March 2011 Mr Vine sent me a personal email saying “We’d love to meet you” and we exchanged further emails and spoke (11th May 2011) about how this might happen.

At no point did I ever consider any emails sent direct to Mr Vine or to his programme to be anything other than the expressing of my opinion in a discussion-based programme, and it was never my intention that they should be treated as any kind of official complaint. Every email I have sent has included my full name and phone number.

Mr Vine’s introduction to the realms of Twitter caused me to sign-up too and I became a “follower”. However, within a few days of this Mr Vine chose to “block” me from following his tweets for reasons that remain unknown to me.

I do not have records for the complaints that I sent in 2010, but my records show that I sent a total of 19 for the 13 months January 2011 to January 2012 inclusive. I immediately asked for clarification as to how and why these have been calculated to be “dozens” but I have yet to receive a reply from the BBC Complaints Department or the Editorial Complaints Unit. I am assuming that I will not receive one.

Bearing in mind the background information provided above, here are brief details of the 19 complaints for which I have records:

7th January 2011: Mr Vine attacked ITV for their criticism of police in Bristol, yet chose to ignore the EastEnders cot-death story that was dominating all of the news headlines that day. I considered that his attack on ITV was unjust while he ignored an important story and the subsequent controversy surrounding the BBC.

28th February: In a discussion about thefts from oil-fired central heating systems Mr Vine gave all of the information (equipment needed, how to find, etc.) that any potential thief would need and turned it in to a master class in oil theft. I considered this to be irresponsible.

2nd March: A referendum concerning links to the Westminster Parliament was to be held by the Welsh Assembly the next day, and this was an important issue for those of us living in Wales. Mr Vine did not discuss this and instead covered other topics, at least one of which was not time critical. I considered this to be unfair to his listeners in Wales as English-only (and in particular London-only) politics is often discussed. In their response, the BBC Complaints Department told me “our audience feedback shows that their editorial team’s story selection is not of huge concern to the vast majority of Jeremy Vine listeners”, which I find absolutely incredulous and makes me wonder what the purpose of the programme may be.

3rd March: The Jeremy Vine Show web page showed an item relating to Wales that had not been discussed after a last-minute change, and I asked for this to be corrected. Following my complaint the correction was made and I was thanked for my input.

3rd March: Mr Vine discussed “Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has been given government approval for its controversial takeover of BSkyB”. I considered that use of the word “controversial” and the absence of a News Corporation representative in the discussion showed some anti-Murdoch bias.

14th March: Mr Vine discussed the Fukushima power station and made many technical errors. He admitted at the very end of the item, quote, "I think perhaps we should speak to an expert on nuclear energy and get the facts.”. This was an important and emotive topic and I considered that he should not have attempted the discussion without such an expert present.

15th March: In a follow-up discussion on Fukushima, Mr Vine said, "Somebody got upset yesterday when I said the reactor contained plutonium". I considered this remark to be disrespectful and dismissive to those listeners who know about nuclear power generation and who had attempted to correct Mr Vine’s errors the previous day.

16th March: Fukushima again, and an interview with Jeremy Browne MP. I considered that Mr Vine gave Mr Browne an unjustified hard time and did not listen to and fully comprehend the answers that Mr Browne gave.

17th March: Mr Vine discussed a bullying video that appeared on YouTube but which had been removed before the programme started. I considered it impossible to form my own opinion on the video when I was unable to see it, and I did not want to rely solely on Mr Vine’s description.

21st June: 2DAY, and Mr Vine took part in a morning documentary programme. As 2DAY was meant to show the range of Radio 2’s output to listeners who would not normally listen at a particular time of day, I considered that dropping the normal programme style failed to do that and deprived other listeners of the chance to listen to Radio 2’s unique and premier news and current affairs output.

3rd August: Since Mr Vine’s introduction to Twitter, the daily update to the show web page was becoming later and later. Mr Vine would tweet a four-word teaser before 10am each morning, so it was clear that the programme’s topics were known by this time. I considered that non-Twitter users should have the same timely access to this information and that every effort should be made to update the show web page before the programme started.

26th September: Mr Vine’s Twitter page states “All views personal of course” but he uses his Twitter account in a far more interactive way with specific regard to his Radio 2 programme than any other BBC presenter of which I am aware. Following my “blocking”, I considered that Mr Vine appeared reluctant to accept challenging or critical comments yet provided no alternative method for passing on such comments with the ease that Twitter provides. I also considered that the distinction between a personal Twitter account and one that actively promoted a BBC programme and encouraged discussion on that same BBC programme had become blurred and needed to be clarified. I made a comparison with Mr Vine’s personal and unpublicised BBC email address and the publicised email address used specifically for his programme.

29th September:  Mr Vine published a photo of his programme script on Twitter that read "Martin McGuiness is standing to be IRISH PRESIDENT. Should he first admit how many people he has killed?". I considered that Mr Vine’s public statement that assumed Mr McGuiness to be guilty of murder without any evidence to support such an accusation was unfair.

30th September: I had noticed that a large number of links on Mr Vine’s show web page would be to web pages belonging to various newspapers, but that these were no longer being used and only links to BBC web pages were included. While I was happy to read the BBC's view of events it was also good to read the alternative viewpoints expressed elsewhere in the media, and I considered that I was being deprived of this useful background information. Following my complaint the links to newspaper web pages were reinstated.

11th October: Ref. 6th October programme: Following the unfortunate death of Steve Jobs, Mr Vine chose to devote 30 minutes of his programme to his death and his technical innovations. It was described thus on his web page: "How did Apple change your world? Can you remember the first time you marvelled at an Apple product?". I considered that the death of Mr Jobs was only of secondary importance in a segment that turned in to a promotion for Apple products of all kinds, and without mention of "other similar products are available from other manufacturers".

13th December: This was a repeat of my 3rd August complaint as web page updates were still getting later and later, and sometimes not occurring until some hours after the programme had finished. Mr Roger’s email of 25th January 2012 informed me “that the programme holds the right to publish website content at a time convenient to it”. I consider this to be unacceptable.

4th January: I read two BBC documents that gave instruction for staff on how to use social networking media, and Twitter in particular. I found no mention of when a Twitter follower should be “blocked”, and no mention of any reason why this should occur. I considered that Mr Vine was using a so-called personal Twitter account in an official capacity and which was promoted heavily in connection with his programme. I also considered that his many suggestions of “You can follow me on Twitter” were unfair to those of us who he had chosen to “block”. I was asked to write to the Editorial Complaints Unit on this matter, which I did on 21st January 2012, but I have yet to receive a reply. Again, I am assuming that I will not receive one.

19th January 2012: Mr Vine discussed the Costa Concordia capsize on five days (2.5 hours of air time, less music) yet chose to ignore other concurrent news stories that I considered to be of more importance and interest. While I accept that the accident was certainly worthy of discussion, I considered that it had had too much coverage.

19th January: Mr Vine discussed a video featuring an altercation between a policeman and a cyclist and that had appeared on YouTube. The actual incident occurred before June 2011 but no mention was made of this, and I considered this to be misleading. In addition, there was no mention of the subsequent action taken by the police and the cyclist which had been well-publicised elsewhere. Mr Vine also showed a poor knowledge of the law in such incidents and went on to doubt the information given by an expert in the studio, which I considered to be disrespectful and dismissive.

Mr Rogers makes the assertion that the BBC Complaints Department has “explained on countless occasions, why the programme choses (sic) to cover the topics it does, that the programme holds the right to publish website content at a time convenient to it, and the BBC’s view on staff use of social media websites such as Twitter”. Like his use of “dozens”, I am unsure of how Mr Rogers defines “countless”. My experience of the BBC Complaints Department is that my messages to them are often misunderstood and I receive a reply that completely misses the point I was making, despite my attempt to give the clearest description I possibly can.

I respectfully request that my complaints are no longer subject to the expedited complaints handling procedure and that normal handling of any complaints I may wish to make about Mr Vine’s programme is reinstated immediately.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this letter, and please feel free to contact me should you require any further information.

I look forward to receiving your response at your earliest convenience.

This was the reply I received today. Note the huge quantity of text that has been copied from my letter, but also note that in many cases they have fully or partially ignored the point I was making. Also note that they go to great lengths to tell me what I have done - which I already know!:

I am responding to your appeal of 1 February 2012 to the Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) regarding BBC Audience Services’ decision to apply the expedited complaints procedure to your complaints concerning the Jeremy Vine radio show, its website and his Twitter feed.

Firstly, I should explain that the Trust does not adjudicate on every appeal that is brought to it, and part of the role of the BBC Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards is to check that appeals qualify for consideration by the Trust (or one of its complaints committees) under the Complaints Framework. You can find full details of the Complaints Framework and Trust appeals procedure’s here:

I am therefore writing this response on behalf of Francesca O’Brien, the BBC Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards, who has given me her decision.

A member of the Trust Unit has read the relevant correspondence and the Head of Editorial Standards does not consider that your appeal has a reasonable prospect of success and should proceed to the ESC. I would like to explain why.

The Trust's Editorial Appeals procedure states that:

Your appeal must raise a matter of substance – in particular, that, in the opinion of the Trust, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the appeal has a reasonable prospect of success and there is a case for the BBC Executive to answer. Consideration will also be given to whether it is appropriate, proportionate and cost effective for the Trust to address an appeal.

Before giving the reasons for the Head of Editorial Standards’ decision, I have summarised your complaints and the BBC Executive’s responses.

Stage 1

You raised a number of different complaints about the Jeremy Vine show, details of which are set out below:

1. You wrote to the BBC on 7 January 2011, arguing that the Jeremy Vine programme had again ignored an important news story which cast the BBC in a poor light, the Eastenders cot death storyline, while berating a rival broadcaster during a discussion of an ITV programme. You said this complaint mirrored an earlier one you had made to which you had not received a satisfactory answer.
BBC Audience Services replied on 28 February 2001, apologising for the delay in responding. They said that the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine team had considered covering the cot death story but had decided not to do so. The story had, however, been widely covered elsewhere on the BBC. The letter said that it was the editorial responsibility of the team to decide the mix of topics and that it was inevitable that some listeners would not agree with its final choice of subjects.
You replied to the BBC on 28 February 2011 saying that this response had missed the essential point of your complaint i.e. that the cot death controversy had been deliberately swept under the carpet while another broadcaster’s controversial output had been chosen for discussion instead.
BBC Audience Services replied on 3 March 2011 saying that there nothing they could usefully add to their earlier response and that if you remained unhappy with this you could escalate your complaint to stage two of the complaints procedure. Details were provided as to how you could do this.

2. On 28 January 2011 you wrote to the BBC primarily complaining about a Jeremy Vine show the treatment of an item on the theft of domestic heating oil. You argued that the presenter had provided extensive information on how potential thieves could do just this, and that this was extremely irresponsible.
BBC Audience Services replied on 3 February 2011 saying that it was never the programme’s intention to provide useful information for criminals and that part of the item’s remit was to provide information on how listeners could prevent such thefts. This reply said that a lot of the detail, about which you were complaining, had been supplied by an NFU spokesman and listeners themselves.

3. On 2 March 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining about the absence of a discussion on the referendum in Wales on the Jeremy Vine show, which was taking place the following day. You said that several of the items covered were, by comparison, trivial non-news topics, and that this was becoming a common feature of a programme you described as merely ‘News Entertainment’ rather than ‘News’.
BBC Audience Services replied on 11 March 2011 saying that the choice of items involved a number of factors such as immediacy and likely national interest in the subject matter. They said that there was an element of subjective judgment in the final decision on the editorial mix of all programmes and in this context they understood that not all listeners would agree with their judgment call on a particular day.
You replied to the BBC on 16 March 2011 saying you were unhappy with this response. In particular you cited a number of non-news topics featured on recent Jeremy Vine programmes such as ‘Breast milk ice cream’ and ‘Fried Chicken Shops’ and asked how these met the criteria laid out in the BBC’s response letter.
BBC Audience Services replied on 29 March 2011 saying that the Jeremy Vine team was responsible for the judgment calls about what was the right editorial mix for its programme. It accepted that you clearly disagreed with its selections on numerous occasions but said that the audience feedback from listeners did not indicate a general dissatisfaction along the lines you articulated.

4. On 3 March you wrote to the BBC regarding the Jeremy Vine web page showing an item relating to Wales incorrectly, and asked for this to be changed. The change was made and you were thanked for your input.

5. On 3 March 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining about the Jeremy Vine show’s coverage of the proposed News Corporation takeover of BskyB. You believed that the tone adopted by Mr Vine, the language used and the decision to cover the story itself all reflected an inappropriate obsession with Rupert Murdoch, and a desire to attack him to the extent that no-one from his organisation was invited to put a counter view.
BBC Audience Services replied on 10 March 2011 saying that the BBC and its journalists were committed to impartial reporting, and to put their own views aside when discussing topics. The letter said that it was not essential to have a spokesman from a particular organisation on every occasion a relevant subject was discussed; rather that the BBC’s guidelines required it to provide balance and a range of views across its overall output. It explained that your views would be circulated to programme makers and senior staff via the daily audience feedback log.

6. On 14 March 2011 you wrote to BBC Audience Services saying you were unhappy with the lack of research behind the item on the Jeremy Vine show discussing nuclear plant explosions in Japan which, you said, was extremely short on hard facts. You said that this item epitomised a general failure by Mr Vine to research topics adequately prior to discussing them on air.
BBC Audience Services replied on 28 March 2011 saying that while they acknowledged your concerns, they believed the BBC’s coverage of this incident and its aftermath had been accurate and extensive.

7. On 15 March 2011 you wrote to the BBC saying that Jeremy Vine’s comment on air that ‘Somebody got upset yesterday when I said the reactor contained plutonium’ was disrespectful to listeners. In fact, you said, he should have said that a listener had ‘corrected him’ when he mistakenly said the reactor contained plutonium.
BBC Audience Services replied on 20 March 2011 saying that no harm or offence had been intended by this choice of words and that the BBC aimed for the highest standards across its output.

8. On 16 March 2011 you wrote to the BBC saying that Jeremy Vine had treated the MP Jeremy Browne poorly by haranguing him with a repeated question which he had in fact answered appropriately. You also said that the failure to research the topic adequately in advance had made the interview itself far from satisfactory as the crucial information from the British rescue team had only been garnered after the interview was finished.
BBC Audience Services replied on 21 March 2011 saying that the interviewer’s job was to ask the questions the listeners would want posed, and to press interviewees with firmness and politeness. Politicians, in particular, were well prepared for such encounters and it was on occasion necessary to be very persistent to pursue answers that the audience would want and expect.
You wrote to the BBC on 22 March 2011 saying you were unhappy with this response. You pointed out that had Mr Vine had the information about the rescue team’s request prior to the interview then a much more useful line of questioning could have been pursued. As it was the grilling by Mr Vine was laboured and unnecessary.
BBC Audience Services replied on 28 March 2011 addressing your point about why Jeremy Vine had persisted in pursuing a point you felt had been adequately answered by Mr Browne. They said that the question Mr Vine repeatedly posed concerned the British Embassy’s apparent failure to provide the correct paperwork for the British rescue team, and that Mr Browne had repeatedly avoided answering this direct question which was why Mr Vine pursued the point. This letter argued that the comments from the rescue team at the end of the programme confirmed that Mr Vine had been pursuing an important journalistic question.

9. On 17 March 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining that the discussion on the Jeremy Vine show about a bullying video on YouTube had been pointless and frustrating as many listeners had not been able to see this video as it had been withdrawn, and therefore could not contribute or consider their own position on the issue.
BBC Audience Services replied on 24 March 2011 saying that the video had been withdrawn from YouTube after the item had been prepared but before the broadcast in question. Nevertheless the BBC felt the general issues raised by it were of broad interest.

10. On 21 June 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining that the Jeremy Vine should not have been dropped as part of Radio 2’s 2DAY celebratory output as the programme itself was part of what Radio 2 should be celebrating.
BBC Audience Services replied on 25 June 2011 saying that a day-long celebration of Radio 2, packing in everything about the station into a 12 hour time slot, inevitably meant dropping some regular programmes.

11. On 3 August 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining that the billings of the day’s topics for discussion on the Jeremy Vine show website were becoming increasingly late. You contrasted this Jeremy Vine’s own Twitter feed which seemed to take precedence lately despite many listeners not choosing to access this.
BBC Audience Services replied on 4 August 2011 saying your comments had been forwarded to the team responsible for the website in question.

12. On 26 September 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining that Jeremy Vine was spending a considerable amount of time in the immediate run-up to his radio show posting messages on his Twitter site. You thought this was an inappropriate use of his time as he was being paid by the BBC to prepare for his licence payer-funded radio show. You also said his Twitter feed was highly personal and partisan and damaged the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. You said that there was a serious issue here concerning the distinction between what the BBC was responsible for as opposed to the content and comments broadcast by the presenter of its radio show on Twitter.

13. On 3 August 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining about a Twitter comment from Jeremy Vine publicising that day’s Radio 2 show in which he implied that Martin McGuiness was a murderer when he had never been convicted of such as offence.
BBC Audience Services replied on 2 October 2011 saying that Jeremy Vine made it clear on his Twitter account that all the views expressed were his personal ones.
You replied to the BBC on 2 October 2011 saying that the distinction between the BBC and its commitment to impartiality and its undertaking that its presenters would follow this philosophy, was compromised by Jeremy Vine regularly posting his views on his Twitter account. This problem was exacerbated, in your view, by him using BBC copyright material on his Twitter account, discussing his Radio 2 show and using that show to publicise his Twitter feeds. His comments about Martin McGuiness illustrated all these concerns.
BBC Audience Services replied on 12 October 2011 saying that they were satisfied that the time spent on his Twitter feeds did not affect Jeremy Vine’s commitment to the Radio 2 programme. They also said that the copyright material you referred to was in the public domain. In relation to your comment about labelling Martin McGuiness a murderer, the BBC said that the issue was posed as a question rather than a statement of fact, and given that he was the former Chief of Staff of the IRA it was a perfectly reasonable question to pose.

14. On 30 September 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining that the BBC’s Jeremy Vine show website no longer provided links to relevant newspaper articles which you had found interesting and helpful.
BBC Audience Services replied on 6 October 2011 saying that your comment, that more newspaper website should be included on the site, had been forward to the relevant website team.
You replied to the BBC on 6 October 2011 saying that you had specifically asked why the previous policy of supplying external links had been changed.
BBC Audience Services replied on 12 October 2011 apologising for the misunderstanding, saying that this point had been forward to the relevant team.

15. On 11 October 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining about the increasing number of references to commercial products appearing on Radio 2 programmes. You believed these were little short of product placement. You said that the discussion on the Jeremy Vine show about Apple’s importance in the world had been, effectively, a simple advert for their products - with no consideration of any rivals’ products. You were also unhappy with Chris Evans talking about Red Bull in uncritically glowing terms in relation to their Formula One achievements for the same reason
BBC Audience Services replied on 15 October 2011 saying the Charter specifically prohibited the BBC from advertising or gaining financially from any commercial sponsorship. This letter said that it was both editorially justified and practically necessary to refer to commercial organisations as part of its editorial remit and quoted from the BBC’s guidelines which state that the BBC must be able to refer to commercial products, brands and logos to report on and reflect the world today.

16. On 14 December 2011 you wrote to the BBC saying that the Jeremy Vine show website was being updated later and later, and that this prevented you finding out what topics were to be discussed each day.
BBC Audience Services replied on 21 December 2011 saying that while they were sorry for the inconvenience caused, it was not always possible to update websites as quickly as some viewers or listeners would like.
You replied to the BBC on 21 December 2011 providing further examples of the inconsistent updating of the Jeremy Vine website, including days when it has not been updated until after the programme had been broadcast.
BBC Audience Services sent an automated logging of your complaint on 21 December 2011. You replied to the BBC on 3 January 2012 saying you were still awaiting a response. BBC Audience Services sent a further automated response. You wrote again to the BBC on 13 January 2012 chasing a response.

17. On 4 January 2012 you wrote to the BBC complaining that you had been blocked from Jeremy Vine’s Twitter account, this despite him regularly announcing on BBC Radio that ‘you can follow me on Twitter’ etc. You said that you had checked the BBC guidelines on Twitter and could find no reference to BBC staff being permitted to do this.
BBC Audience Services replied on 9 January saying that the BBC was not responsible for Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feed which was entirely his own preserve.
You replied on 9 January 2011 saying that Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feed was regularly publicised by him on BBC Radio, was featured on the programme’s website and was thus inextricably linked with the BBC and the radio programme bearing his name. You contrasted this with Vanessa Feltz’s situation in which she had two clearly delineated Twitter accounts, one for her personal life and one relating to her BBC talk show.
BBC Audience Services replied on 20 January 2012 saying that they disagreed with this interpretation of the situation. They argued that Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feed was consistent with the BBC’s policy on this issue, and that it was acceptable under the guidelines for him to discuss and promoter his Twitter feed on the radio and vice versa. They said that you could now escalate this complaint to stage 2 if you remained dissatisfied with this response.

18. On 19 January 2012 you wrote to the BBC saying that the Jeremy Vine show had given far too much coverage of the Costa Concordia disaster at the expense of other stories.
BBC Audience Services responded on 20 January 2012 saying that the question of the choice of stories and their length was invariably a difficult editorial matter with which some viewers were bound to disagree.

19. On 19 January 2011 you wrote to the BBC complaining about the cyclist/policeman item on the Jeremy Vine show arguing this was a very dated story and did not warrant airtime; you said the failure to reference the date when the incident had occurred was itself telling. You also questioned the research behind the item.
BBC Audience Services replied on 23 January 2012 saying that the item in question was topical because it had recently become a YouTube sensation, and was being reported on and discussed in the British press.
You replied on 23 January 2012 arguing that the programme should not be deciding what is significant and topical on the basis of whether a newspaper had chosen to publish a piece on the subject. You also took issue with what you saw as the poorly-researched nature of the item broadcast, providing some detailed examples.

Application of expedited procedure

BBC Audience Services replied on 25 January 2012 saying that you had submitted dozens of complaints over the past 17 months about the Jeremy Vine show, its output, the website and Mr Vine’s own Twitter account, and that these complaints revolved around three reoccurring themes: your disagreement with the selection of items on the show and alleged bias by Jeremy Vine, the website updates and Jeremy Vine’s right to use his Twitter feeds in the way he chose.

On each of these issues the BBC had provided you with a clear explanation of their policy, the letter said, and that they could not continue to devote such a disproportionate amount of scarce time and resources to responding to these same complaints. In this context they had applied the expedited complaints procedure. This meant that for the next two years they would not be replying to complaints from you submitted directly to production teams or via the central BBC Complaints Unit which relate to the Jeremy Vine show unless new and substantive issues raising questions of serious editorial breaches are raised. This letter advised you that you could appeal to the BBC Trust over this decision, and provided the relevant information.

You replied to the BBC on 26 January 2012 seeking clarification about the alleged ‘dozens’ of complaints you had submitted over the past 17 months. You said your records only covered 12 months so you asked the BBC explain to the ‘dozens’ reference. You asked what constituted a complaint – did this include emails to the show directly, to Jeremy Vine at his BBC email address and/or his Twitter account? You also asked if you would now be getting a response to your stage 2 complaint sent to the ECU on 21 January 2012.

Stage 2

You wrote to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit on 21 January 2012 to escalate your complaint about being blocked from Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feed. You said this breached the BBC’s guidelines on Twitter accounts, and ran contrary to the spirit of his repeated offers to ’follow me on Twitter’ broadcast on his radio show.

The Head of the Editorial Complaints Unit for the BBC replied to you on 6 February 2012 confirming that the expedited complaints procedure also applied to your complaint recently submitted to them, and that this would therefore not be investigated.

Your appeal

You wrote to the BBC Trust on 1 February 2012 to appeal against the decision to subject your complaints to the expedited complaints procedure. Firstly, you said that you had sent 19 complaints during the past 13 months, and therefore had sought clarification as to how the BBC had concluded that you had submitted ‘dozens’ but that you had not had an answer to this point. You questioned what constituted a complaint.

You then provided a brief resume of the 19 complaints submitted to BBC Audience Services over the past 13 months. As set out above, these included several complaints about the editorial choices of the programme and, on occasion, the treatment of the item in question, raising issues such as alleged bias and poor research. You also explained why the failure to update the programme’s website in a consistent and timely manner was highly problematic for you as a listener. In a series of letters you outlined your argument that Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feeds ran contrary to BBC guidelines, particularly his decision to block you from accessing his account. Finally, in response to the BBC’s claim that they had provided countless explanations of their policy on these key issues you said that the responses from the BBC frequently missed the point of your complaints.

The Head of Editorial Standards’ decision

For the BBC Trust to consider an appeal there has to be a reasonable prospect of success. In the light of all the correspondence in question, the Head of Editorial Standards does not feel the BBC has a case to answer concerning its decision to apply the expedited complaints procedure in relation to your complaints about the Jeremy Vine show.

Firstly, I would like to quote directly from the BBC’s Complaints Framework, and then seek to explain the Head of Editorial Standards’ reasoning. The Complaints Framework Annex B, Expedited Complaints Handling procedure1 states:

The BBC needs to be able to ensure that its complaints procedures are not abused by vexatious complainants or otherwise by persons making repeated complaints which are without substance.

There are a number of criteria which may be relevant but the Head of Editorial Standards’ view is that that the following two are the most significant:

The complaint recipients should consider whether to make use of the expedited procedure where a complainant has a history of persistently and/or repeatedly making complaints which:
(a) Are repetitions of substantively identical complaints that have already been resolved; and/or
(b) Although within their remit, are shown on investigation to have no reasonable prospect of success.

The majority of your complaints concerned the editorial choice of subjects and the treatment of them on the Jeremy Vine Show, and it is clear from the BBC’s guidelines that this is a matter for the BBC and its creative teams.

In this context BBC Audience Services were necessarily eventually supplying you with near-identical responses irrespective of the specific complaint about choice of item as these issues are a matter for the BBC staff concerned.

In this context the Head of Editorial Standards does believe it is reasonable to view your complaints as falling within the terms of the procedure as set out above.

Your second major recurring complaint about the inconsistent updating of the website is also a case where the Head of Editorial Standards cannot see how the BBC could have responded differently or is likely to do so in future to a similar complaint. They said that they could not guarantee that every website would always be updated at a specific time, priorities and resources necessarily dictating these matters. Again this is clearly a matter for the BBC to exercise its judgment over its priorities. The Head of Editorial Standards therefore does not believe an appeal against the application of the expedited procedure on this matter has a reasonable prospect of success.

The Head of Editorial Standards notes that the BBC has repeatedly said that Jeremy Vine’s Twitter account is a personal one, and that they are happy with its relationship to the show, and that he is not in breach of the appropriate BBC guidelines. Here too the Head of Editorial Standards cannot see their response changing, or that there are grounds to consider a breach in the guidelines. In this context in seems to the Head of Editorial Standards to be reasonable to conclude that your main complaints have become ‘repetitions of substantially identical complaints’ with ‘no reasonable prospect of success’ as the guidelines covering this procedure require. In this context the Head of Editorial Standards can see no reasonable chance of success if this complaint was pursued to appeal.

The Head of Editorial Standards notes that one of your complaints (3 March) led to a change to the web page. Please be assured that under the expedited procedure your complaints will still be read and if there is a matter of substance then the complaint will be handled as normal including acceptance of a need for a clarification or correction if necessary. It will not be ignored.

Finally the Head of Editorial Standards notes that the BBC suggested that there had been dozens of complaints over 17 months and you noted that you had made 19 complaints during the past 13 months. I appreciate that this difference concerns you however it does not seem to the Head of Editorial Standards to make a material difference to the essential issue which is that the BBC is expending resource on replying to similar complaints on which you have already had an answer and know the BBC’s position and on which you have no reasonable prospect of success.

If you wish the Trustees to review the Head of Editorial Standards’ decision, please reply with your reasons by 5pm on Tuesday 20 March 2012 to Lucy Tristram, Complaints Advisor, at the above address or If exceptionally you need more time please write giving your reasons as soon as possible.

If you do ask the Trustees to review the Head of Editorial Standards’ decision I will then place your letter, this letter, the Stage 2 decision and your original letter of appeal to the Trust before the ESC. I anticipate that they will consider your request at their 29 March meeting. Their decision is likely to be ratified at their May meeting and you will be given their decision shortly afterwards.

If the Trustees consider that your case has no reasonable prospect of success then your case will close. If the Trustees disagree with the Head of Editorial Standards’ view then your case will be given to an Independent Editorial Adviser to investigate and we will contact you with an updated time line.

Yours sincerely
Natalie Rose
Senior Editorial Strategy Adviser, Trust Unit

So, I have been given another invitation to take this further, coupled with another deadline. I will publish my reply to the BBC Trust Unit in due course.


gill said...

good grief, talk about jumping through hoops. More rings than Saturn, Proof, if proof were needed, that the complaints procedure is not fit for purpose.
Love the strap line for the 'funny' (can't think of the correct term) words you have to enter on this blog site

Please prove you're not a robot

BBC take note

Wonder if JV will discuss this

Personally i would prefer Jimmy Young!!

Stonyground said...

It appears to me that the BBC can blithly treat their viewers and listeners with such arrogance and contempt because, and only because, the TV licence is compulsory. If they were having to compete for your business on a level playing field they would not be able to be so dismissive. In a previous thread you mentioned Sky subscriptions, if you want a Sky package you can choose one and choose to pay for it. My wife and daughter watch a lot of telly, wife is keen on sport so we have a sport package and horse racing channels. If we decide at some point that it isn't value for money, or that we can't afford it, we are free to cancel our subscription at any time. Not so with the BBC, even if we don't want it and never watch it, we have to pay for it anyway.

The technology that would enable people to only subscribe to those BBC channels that they wish to view has existed for decades. What do you suppose the BBC are afraid of?