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Questions about the BBC

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19th February 2010

coverage of Ray Gosling's murder confession

Questions about the BBC
Questions about the BBC coverage of Ray Gosling's murder confession

Freelance broadcaster Ray Gosling admitted smothering his lover, who had AIDS, in a 12-minute documentary on death and dying broadcast at 1930 on Monday 15 February on BBC East Midlands' Inside Out programme. He did not however name the person he killed, nor the place or date of the death.

A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire police said yesterday that the force had not been aware of the issue until the broadcaster made his revelation on television. Asked if the BBC should have contacted police when Gosling initially confessed to the killing last year, a Nottinghamshire police spokesman said: 'You would hope that anyone with information about a crime like that would certainly refer it to us in the first instance so police can investigate.' The police have now arrested Mr Gosling on suspicion of murder.

The BBC has come under criticism for not informing the police about the confession before the programme was screened and has, in response, issued the following statement which has been reported in a news item on the BBC website and which was also read out by presenter Nicky Campbell on BBC Radio Five Live's morning news programme, Wednesday 17 February.

'The BBC said they will co-operate fully with the investigation. They said Mr Gosling's "secret" was not known before he was commissioned to make the report on death and dying, adding: "The first the BBC knew of this incident was during filming for the programme that was broadcast on 15 Feb 2010. The BBC is under no legal obligation to refer the matter to the police in these circumstances."'

Care Not Killing was contacted by various BBC outlets in the late afternoon of Monday before the programme was screened and asked to provide spokespeople for BBC News Channel, the Ten O'clock News and BBC breakfast. We were not given details of the case but were told that the various BBC producers had received copies of an embargoed report which gave details of a confession to a mercy killing which would be shown on Inside Out.

It was clearly evident from this that the BBC intended to make this 'murder confession' an international news story without informing the police that they were going to do so. This raises serious questions about governance and ethics at the BBC.

The viewing public and British taxpayers deserve answers to the following questions which are not answered in the very brief BBC statement above.

1. On what date did the murder confession first become known to members of BBC staff?
2. Who amongst BBC regional and national staff was informed about the statement and when?
3. Was the Director General of the BBC aware of the confession before the programme was screened and if not who was the most senior person in the BBC to be made aware and when were they told?
4. Was legal advice sought at any point about the advisability of screening the programme and if so what advice was given and by whom?
5. Who made the decision to screen the programme on Monday night and was there any connection between this and the imminent publication of the DPP prosecution guidelines on assisted suicide?
6. Did the BBC take into consideration the impact that the screening of the confession and its subsequent global media coverage might have on any prosecution that might ensue?
7. Why did the BBC decide not to inform the police about the confession before the programme was shown?
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