BBC 'clears Panorama's Primark faking'
Tuesday, April 6 2010, 13:21 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC has cleared current affairs programme Panorama of faking an investigation into child labour being used by clothing retailer Primark.

Broadcast in June 2008, the Primark - Behind the Label documentary featured a scene depicting boys in Bangalore allegedly making clothing for the firm.

Following a 22-month investigation, the BBC's editorial complaints unit (ECU) criticised the programme makers for "inaccuracies in the scene". It said that the sequence was "not subject to sufficient scrutiny by the Panorama team" and should "not have been relied on in the programme".

Following transmission of the documentary, Primark immediately complained that it broke the BBC's own editorial guidelines. The retailer claimed that Panorama established a fake refugee camp to capture footage of children making its clothes, but that was quickly rejected by the BBC.

According to The Observer, the ECU ruled that the central claims made in the programme were accurate. However, the Bangalore sequence "did not materially add to the adverse impression of Primark created by the programme, because this rested on other evidence which had been fully authenticated by the Panorama team".

The ECU's findings, which are due to be published later in the week, state that "the programme's script was inaccurate in relation to who was speaking during the sequence in question". It also accused the journalists of misleading Primark about the programme's allegations when the firm was approached for reaction comment.

Primark responded to the Panorama investigation by ditching three suppliers found to be using child labour in Indian refugee camps.

Reacting to the verdict, a BBC News spokesman said: "It showed clearly that Primark was not in compliance with its own ethical guidelines; that children were undeniably being used in the making of some Primark goods; and that Primark sacked a number of suppliers when the findings were brought to their attention.

"The ECU has not found that anything in the programme was fabricated. The judgement suggests more could have been done to authenticate one short sequence in the film showing children working on a garment. If the sequence had been edited out it would not have changed or weakened the programme's findings."

Primark has not yet officially responded to the ruling, but the retailer can now escalate the complaint to the BBC Trust if it so wishes.