BBC Panorama’s ‘unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting’
An episode of Panorama, focusing exclusively on Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, is due to air tonight (31st March). While claiming to look at the powers of directly elected Mayors, the programme ignores the other 15 in the country and concentrated on the one who happens to be Muslim – and who is up for re-election in a few weeks.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman rebuts the allegations:
“It is completely untrue that the grants process in Tower Hamlets has been abused to fund Bangladeshi organisations. Since I took office out of a total £27.6 million paid out in grants to community organisations, £2.2 million has gone to Bangladeshi charities or organisations led by a Bangladeshi CEO, Chair or Board. That is 8% of our total grants budget to a community that makes up over 30% of the borough’s population.”
“Tonight’s Panorama programme is based on unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting. Repeating damaging myths about black and minority communities benefiting at the expense of others only threatens to undermine community cohesion in our borough.”
Mayor Lutfur Rahman has written to the Director General of the BBC complaining about the programme, saying:
“A dossier handed to us by a whistleblower’s shows how programme is in total breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. You will also be aware that the BBC and the production company, Films of Record, have been referred to the Information Commissioner and a criminal investigation is underway.”
He added, “The proposed Panorama progamme would be a direct intervention in the election and is just an extended license payer funded party political broadcast for the (Tower Hamlets) Labour Party.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The Independent has an interview with the whistleblower: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/information-commissioner-investigating-alleged-data-protection-breaches-in-latest-bbc-panorama-investigation-9226216.html
2. The programme may claim that the Mayor is unaccountable to the opposition, fails to appear before the Scrutiny committee and refuses to answer questions in Full Council but in fact, Mayor Rahman has appeared once per year before Scrutiny as council leaders did before the mayoral system and has answered MORE questions in Council than the mayors of neighbouring boroughs.
3. We have a full video and transcript of Ware’s interview to show how Panorama edited the tape to make its case that a Mayor who works for residents only does so to buy their votes.
4. In fact, Tower Hamlets has won multiple awards including the prestigious ‘Procurement Innovation of the Year’ only last week (http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/top_government_procurement_award_goes_to_tower_hamlets_council_1_3487592).
5. It has also
· Won government bonuses for delivering more new homes than any other council in the country
· Raised GCSE results to record heights winning national recognition
· Been the only council nationwide to provide free homecare for elderly residents
· Absorbed the cuts in council tax benefit made by the government
· Replaced the Education Maintenance Allowance cut by the government
· Introduced a new Higher Education bursary for poorer students to attend University
· Given free school meals for ALL pupils up to year 6 from September
6. In March 2014 the borough became the first council to be reaccredited at ‘Excellent’, the top level of the Equality Framework for Local Government. We are rated by Stonewall as the second best council in London for LGBT equality.