A complaint of unjust or unfair treatment against The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 has not been upheld by Ofcom.
The programme, on November 28th, included two reports about the publication of the judge’s comments in a care proceedings case in which two social workers, one of whom was complainant Mr Swaby, were named and severely criticised. The programme also included critical comments about Mr Swaby made by the maternal grandparents of the child concerned in the case.
Ofcom says the broadcaster took reasonable care to satisfy itself that the programme did not present, disregard or omit material facts, with regard to the claims made about Mr Swaby in a way that resulted in unfairness to him. And Mr Swaby was given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the claims made about him in the programme and therefore there was no unfairness to him in this respect.
After the BBC aired details of the case (p38), Mr Swaby said that he had written to the BBC after the broadcast to inform it that his “reputation had been ruined personally and professionally”.
Mr Swaby was given the opportunity to contribute to the programme via a letter but says he was not told about the full list of contributors. He says if he’d have known, he would have responded sooner. As it stood he didn’t reply due to the confidential nature of his work and the short notice given.
The BBC said that the letter clearly set out that that the focus of the report was to be the judge’s finding, but did not suggest that the report would be confined specifically to the judge’s remarks and could not reasonably be construed as a request for a specific response to the judge’s remarks. Rather, it was notification that a report was being prepared and an invitation to contact the reporter to discuss it. It said that if Mr Swaby had responded to the invitation he would have been told in full about what the report might contain and been in a position to decide whether to respond or not. That he chose not to was a matter for him
The BBC said that, having not received a response from Mr Swaby on 26 November 2014, the programme makers decided to hold the report over for 24 hours to give him additional time to respond. However, when no response was received from him directly or via the Council or the British Association of Social Workers (who had also been asked to contact him), they decided to broadcast the report on 28 November 2014.
Upon full investigation, Ofcom found that there was no unfairness to Mr Swaby in this respect.
Read full details of the case in question here (pages 38-47).