We sent the complaint on 4/11/05, after BBC1 TV news claimed (wrongly) that violent crime had "significantly" increased.

*Note: "Changes in recording methods" refers to recent drastic changes in recording crime. For example, one drunken youth hitting two people is now recorded as two violent crimes.
More examples >

For another example of the BBC misreporting crime figures, see our page on Media Scaremongering >


Complaint to BBC:
scaremongering crime reporting

**Stop Press: BBC upholds our complaint**

We received a letter from the head of BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), on 21/2/06, saying that our complaint has been upheld. The ECU has found that BBC1 news breached editorial guidelines on "truth and accuracy", and that there was "no basis" for claiming a significant rise in violent crime.

Our Original Complaint to BBC

Dear BBC Complaints,

I wish to lodge an official complaint about a misleading news report (BBC1 news, 10.00 pm, 20/10/05). Fiona Bruce announced that violent crime had "significantly" increased (by six percent).

The Home Office Statistical Bulletin, 'Crime in England and Wales' (published 20/10/05) in fact makes it clear that the "increase" in violence was not "significant", but resulted largely from continued effects of changed recording methods [see note*, left]. To quote the Home Office Bulletin:

"... there was a six per cent increase in violence against the person but increases in recorded violence continue to reflect the improved police recording of crime and more proactive policing of violence problems. [...] evidence from the BCS on reporting and recording changes suggests that the continuing increases in the recorded violence figures is largely due to these changes in recording practices".

BBC1 news failed to mention this crucial qualification. It also failed to mention the authoritative British Crime Survey's finding that violence had decreased by 7 percent (also reported in the Home Office Bulletin).

This selective, misleading approach to reporting statistics has potentially destructive consequences. The Home Office Bulletin states that the level of worry about violent crime has increased. A responsible news organisation would not exacerbate these worries with unfounded reports about "significantly" increased violence.

(You can access the latest official crime figures in full at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hosb1805.pdf).

Brian Dean [Anxiety Culture editor]









[Notice that this doesn't address the question of whether the BBC was incorrect to claim that violence had "significantly" increased.]


Initial BBC Reply (dismissive)

Dear Mr Dean

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'The Ten O'Clock News' on 20 October...

I note you found the report on violent crime "misleading" although I can assure you this was not the intention of the piece. It is worth noting that the main body of the report was on the measures being introduced to try and tackle violent crime rather than the figures themselves. These are street-level initiatives being introduced by the Government itself in an attempt to take the 'glamour' out of gangs and gun crime.

The introduction to any report is necessarily often a very short summary of the issue in question and it was not the intention to explore the figures in depth. Our wider reporting has pointed out the Home Office's belief that the increase of 6% is a result of improved crime recording and more proactive policing. In addition we have also covered the findings of the British Crime Survey.

However, I am sorry if you were concerned and can assure you that your comments have been registered and added to our daily log which is made available to programme makers and senior editorial staff.

Thank you again for contacting the BBC.

Yours sincerely

Stewart McCullough
Divisional Advisor
BBC Information

(Received 2/12/05)

Our follow-up (sent 5/12/05)

Dear Mr McCullough,

Thanks for your reply to my complaint on BBC reporting of crime figures.

One matter is left unaddressed by your response: Does the BBC acknowledge that it was incorrect to state that violent crime had "significantly" increased?

Given the importance of this issue, and the BBC's responsibility to correct mistakes, it would be useful to see a direct admission of error on this occasion.

Many thanks,

Brian Dean

Second BBC Reply (dismissive again)

Dear Mr Dean

I am sorry that you continue to have concerns with the 'Ten O'clock News' bulletin from the 20 October and the piece on violent crime. However, there is not a great deal I can add to my previous response.

If you do wish to escalate your complaint you should now contact the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU)...

Stewart McCullough
Divisional Advisor
BBC Information

(Received 7/12/05)

After that we took our complaint to the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit. As we mention at the top of the page, they've now upheld our complaint.