A phone call to the Allan Beswick Show on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire has been subject to an investigation by the BBC Trust.
It was found in breach of editorial guidelines for allowing a caller to speak on-air about having sex with his own eight-year-old children.
Trustees were deeply troubled by the fact that the caller had been allowed on air in the first place and particularly by the fact that he had then been able to continue for several minutes talking about his crime, advocating sex between adults and very young children, and expounding what he argued were the benefits of distributing videos of child sexual abuse.
The Trust says it was a most serious error of judgement by the presenter and that the producer broke his own programme guidelines by not listening to a call. The producer also failed to act after hearing the final part of the call.
During this conversation the caller said: “What right has society to say that a child cannot enjoy the pleasures of sex until that child is 16 years of age? It is a complete nonsense.” The presenter and caller talked for almost four and a half minutes before the presenter terminated the conversation.
The caller claimed that he was calling from prison; that ‘there was a lot of nonsense’ talked on the previous night’s programme (which had featured a discussion about the appropriate way to treat people who viewed child pornography online); that children can ‘enjoy the pleasures of sex’; that that had been the case with the children he had raped; that he had made DVDs of ‘child sex’ to distribute to others; and that doing so was a ‘public service’ as it might offer gratification to its viewers as a substitute for them committing ‘nasty offences against children’.
On the night, a trainee call handler took the call and made a note of his details. The main call handler then rang the caller, Colin, back and put him on-air. Colin did not mention at this point he was in prison. Once the caller was on-air, the producer was busy preparing a news bulletin so did not hear it all. The programme’s guidelines specify the producer should listen to every call.
The call has been removed from iPlayer and an on-air apology was prepared and given by the presenter on the next programme. A BBC spokesperson said: “This was completely unacceptable and clearly broke our strict editorial guidelines. A full, on air apology was made. All those involved recognise it was wrong to broadcast such offensive content.
“We have already reviewed and strengthened our procedures and provided additional training and supervision.”
Trustees considered that the broadcast would have caused deep offence for the audience as a whole without having any clear editorial justification. Although it had not been possible after the broadcast to establish with certainty whether the call was genuine, Trustees considered that the broadcast had breached a series of Editorial Guidelines irrespective of whether the caller was actually describing his crimes or whether it was a hoax call.
Trustees recorded this as a serious breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence, Reporting Crime and The Law.