Will the BBC Trust investigate axing of Ilan Ziv’s “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story”?

Dear BBC,

Further to Ilan Ziv’s rendition of the pulling of “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story” (available at: http://ilanziv.com/2013/04/28/the-exiling-of-my-film-exile-a-myth-unearthed-in-the-bbc-2/), I wish to request the following: (a) a full, official explanation of WHY the programme “does not fit editorially”; AND (b) the identity of the person who described the programme as “propaganda”, and the circumstances under which this person came to exert influence over the airing of the programme; AND (c) under all relevant FoI statutes, copies of all relevant internal BBC communications that considered the programme’s “editorial fit”, to include minutes of any meetings that took place on the same subject. I look forward to hearing from you.

Joe Sucksmith

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments regarding about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. Your concerns were brought to the attention of senior management in BBC Vision who responded as follows:

“Ilan Ziv’s film was originally acquired earlier this year to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. Acquisitions are often prepared for transmission close to broadcast and it was only at this point that it was decided that the film did not fit the season editorially and was not shown. We would like to assure you that this was an internal decision and there was no political pressure involved in the decision to suspend this programme. We’re sorry for any disappointment caused but please be assured we are talking to the director about future plans for the film, the outcome of which will be published on the BBC’s FAQ website: http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ in due course”.

With regards to your FOI request, I can assure you that this matter is currently being looked into for you. You will receive a response in due course. Thank you once again for taking the trouble to share your concerns with us.

Kind Regards
Richard Carey

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Dear BBC,

Your response is merely a re-statement of the original response to other complainants that prompted my complaint! To repeat: I would like a full, official explanation of WHY the programme “does not fit editorially”. Put another way, I would like you to explain the phrase “does not fit editorially”, with reference to the specific editorial codes infringed, and why.

Many thanks, Joe

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add. Thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards
Gemma McAleer
BBC Complaints

——-

Dear Gemma,

Many thanks for your further response, received yesterday, and which reads:

“We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add.”

No, you have NOT explained the “reason for decision”. Rather, you have issued a generic cover-all response that the programme “did not fit editorially”. The crucial question, and the one that I’ve now repeatedly asked, is WHY the programme was considered not to fit editorially. This would obviously entail reference to the specific editorial criteria that the programme was considered against, and the reasons why these criteria were not considered to have been met. It is tiresome in the extreme to have to go to these lengths to get an honest response from a publically funded organisation 😦 Please consider this email a request for this complaint to be elevated to Stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process.

Joe

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add. Thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards
Gemma McAleer

——-

Dear BBC Trust,

Please find attached recent correspondence with the BBC regards the BBC’s decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April.

In my professional capacity as an Administrative Officer at a university, I regularly have to assess [various kinds of] student applications. Every now and again, I have no choice but to refuse a student’s application. Can you imagine the student’s consternation were I to respond with a generic “I’m afraid your application did not meet the criteria”? Would such a response inspire confidence that my assessment had been carried out objectively? Would the student not be entitled to an explanation that covered the precise reasons for refusal? I trust this gives an insight into why I remain dissatisfied, and I why I wish the Trust to now investigate further.

Please note: while the BBC clearly believes its continued discussions with the director of the programme to be a mitigating factor, I consider this a red herring. Irrespective of any future transmission, the circumstances surrounding the original axing need to be adequately explained. And of course, the more the BBC Executive procrastinates, the greater the impression they have something to hide.

To re-iterate: I am seeking a full explanation of what was meant by the phrase “does not fit editorially”. This will obviously entail reference to the specific editorial criteria that the programme was considered against, and the reasons why these criteria were not considered to have been met. I think it would also be useful to know HOW these decisions were made, and by WHOM.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Sucksmith

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Further to my email of 6 June 2013, the Trust Unit has reviewed your correspondence and agree that BBC Complaints should have provided you with a further response.

We have therefore asked BBC Complaints to respond to you again directly addressing your concerns. This response should also explain how to take your complaint further should you wish to do so.
I hope this helpful.

Yours sincerely
Christina Roski
Complaints Adviser, BBC Trust Unit

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your email sent to the BBC Trust, which was forwarded to me for reply. Your concerns were again brought to the attention of senior management in BBC Television (formerly BBC Vision) who responded as follows:

‘Ilan Ziv’s film about the archaeology and history of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was acquired by the BBC for transmission during a BBC Four archaeology season. It was found during the re-versioning of the film to 60 minutes in length that it covered broader issues and for that reason, it was decided to withdraw it from this particular season. The BBC is now working with the film maker on a new version of the film and will issue a further statement once that process is complete.’

Please accept this as a response at Stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process. If you remain unhappy you may ask the BBC Trust to consider an appeal within 20 working days. You can write to the BBC Trust at 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ, and you should quote case number CAS-2218615-RZF0C3.

Full details of the complaints and appeals processes are on the BBC Trust website: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/contact/complaints_appeals/appeal_trust.shtml

Yours sincerely
Sarah Greatrex
Senior Complaints Advisor
BBC Audience Services

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Dear BBC Trust,

I have just received the [above] response from BBC Complaints.
This seems to be a perfunctory re-formulation of what has gone before (only with “did not fit editorially” replaced by “covered broader issues”), and most certainly does not evidence any effort to “directly address my concerns”.

I would be grateful, therefore, if the Trust could now investigate further.

Best wishes,

Joe

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One thought on “Will the BBC Trust investigate axing of Ilan Ziv’s “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story”?

  1. Actually, the responses you have received are incorrect in stating that the documentary is about the archaeology and history of Jerusalem.
    Most of the archaeology and history cited is in Galilee, not Jerusalem or Judea.
    Have these people responding at the BBC even watched the film?

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