BBC Apologizes for ‘Serious Breaches’ in Documentary on Antiretroviral Testing Among Children
The BBC recently apologized to the New York-based Center for HIV Law and Policy for "serious breaches" in a 2004 documentary about antiretroviral testing among children in New York, London's Guardian reports. The center filed a complaint to BBC about the documentary, titled "Guinea Pig Kids," and has become "increasingly angry" that an apology issued privately in July has not been published, according to the Guardian.
BBC told the center that it could not decide how to proceed publicly until issues raised in an investigation of the documentary, led by BBC's head of editorial complaints Fraser Steel, had been addressed. According to the Guardian, BBC following Steel's investigation confirmed several of the center's complaints about the film, including claims that antiretroviral drugs given to children were "futile" and "dangerous" and that children were taken from their families because they resisted the drugs. In addition, BBC in its apology said that the film was biased toward views of HIV "denialists" and that the filmmakers attempted to "create an association between the (clinical) trials and a loss of parental rights." BBC did not uphold all the complaints made against the film in its investigation, the Guardian reports.
Steel in a letter to the center said, "I hope you will accept my apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the deficiencies we found in the program and the associated Web site material." Philip Abrams, BBC's complaints director in the editorial complaints unit, in a separate e-mail added that until the "serious issues" raised in the investigation "have been concluded," BBC cannot "decide on what further action to take." He said that BBC "would want to include" planned action in a public statement, adding that he is unsure when a public statement would be posted on the company's Web site.
According to a BBC spokesperson, it is company policy to not publish findings of a complaint investigation without also "publishing the action the BBC intends to take as a result of the investigation." The spokesperson added that BBC employees involved in the investigation have been unable to schedule a meeting to discuss further action but that the "complaints and actions will be published on the BBC Web site" after the meeting.
Jeanne Bergman, an HIV/AIDS advocate with the center and the Web site www.aidstruth.org, said BBC "has been shamefully slow to respond to our urgent concerns" about the film. She added that the group has been asking BBC to "examine our charges that this independent video is HIV-denialist propaganda with no basis in science or fact since the video was first broadcast in 2004" (Holmwood, Guardian, 10/23).