Monday, 25 October 2010

"Strict rules"

It doesn't take much to get the Mail outraged, especially when the BBC are involved. You can just imagine the furious anger that would be directed at the corporation if any presenter appeared on screen in early November without wearing a poppy - "BBC betrays our heroes" sort of thing - but today the paper decided to scream blue murder because Aunty has allowed people on screen wearing poppies "too early".

BBC's blooming error: Charity collectors criticise presenters for wearing poppies too early

Gosh. How awful of them. Tell us more, Anonymous Daily Mail Reporter.
"Various BBC personalities sported poppies this weekend despite the fact that volunteers across the country will not be ready to start collections until next weekend. There are strict rules governing the period during which the Royal British Legion is allowed to sell the poppies and the organisation even wrote to inform the BBC of the dates its campaign would begin."
Strict rules, you say? What does the Royal British Legion have to say about this terrible breach of protocol?
"According to the Royal British Legion, the BBC has done nothing wrong. 'What we do say to people is that when you receive your poppies – organisations, retailers, whoever – we set guidelines and say the national launch will be from 28 October,' said a spokesman. 'But it's really down to the individual as to when they choose to wear their poppy. We would never say they're wearing their poppy too early.'"
Ah. So actually what happens is that the RBL send their poppies out to sellers and, at the time, tell them that the national campaign will start on X date and that you shouldn't sell them before then, although that's just a guideline, not a rule. So who is furious about the breach of these strict rules?
"Sue Cornwell, who co-ordinates poppy sales for the Amersham branch of the charity."

Oh. I see. What's got Sue's goat?

"There is a strict date when you can buy a poppy and make your donation, and it has to be from 30 October."

The Royal British Legion, which actually runs the campaign, says there is nothing wrong with sprouting poppies in October. The only person the Mail can find to stand up their story is one collector from one regional branch, and even she doesn't say that people shouldn't wear them before 30 October, just that collectors can't sell them before this date. And she seems to have got her dates wrong, as the RBL actually says this year's campaign starts two days earlier on 28 October.

The fact that the national campaign directly contradicts both Ms Cornwell and the Mail's entire story may explain the slightly clumsy headline about "charity collectors". The original headline - which can still be seen on the homepage, the title bar and the URL - reads:

BBC presenters criticised by charities for wearing poppies too early

Not just one charity, note, but charities, plural. Even though the only charity involved says the BBC has done nothing wrong and there is no sign of any other charities getting involved in the "row". What we've got is ONE person complaining. One. Out of a population of 60 million.

There could be an interesing story here about the pressure on politicians and other public figures to be poppied-up at the earliest opportunity in order to show that they "care". But once again the Mail lets its own agenda get in the way of the facts, even when quotes in the story contradict the rest of it. Can the people who work there really justify calling themselves "journalists"?

The Mail has now updated the version of the story on its website. The anti-BBC quote from Ms Cornwell has been extended, but the supportive line from the British Legion is drastically scaled back and the phrase "According to the Royal British Legion, the BBC has done nothing wrong" has vanished altogether. It's an even more shamless attempt to attack the BBC without letting the facts get in the way. Pathetic.


matt said...

Very well written, and a quick and effective deconstruction of the 'storm in a tea cup' writing of the Mail.


matt said...

...and, I've just bought a poppy in my local. THREE DAYS EARLY.


P. Stable said...

You, Sir, are worse than Hitler.

Bravenewmalden said...

I'm wearing a puppy. Take that, Daily Mail.

Joe Scaramanga said...

Astonishingly, my comment about the charity completely contradicting their headline (and therefore the headline being an outright lie) got past the mods and became the third most popular comment on the story!

P. Stable said...

Good work, Mr Scaramanga (if that IS your real name). I noticed that you're not alone in getting the green arrow treatment despite criticising the Mail's line - perhaps they badly misjudged their audience on this one?

rpxadair said...

I wonder if part of the problem is that the BBC are worried of appearing "PC" and thus offending the Daily Mail.

Even though Political Correctness is supposed to be the act of being offended not the act of offending, but the Daily Mail is obviously offended by people being offended, because being PC is so unPC these days. I think.

I'm confused :(