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3rd May 2008 11:46

The BBC has finally admitted it was at fault in the Carlton Palmer/Match Of The Day row with Stags fans. Click here for report.

Beeb upholds complaints by Mansfield Town fans over MOTD Carlton Palmer row
CHAD.CO.UK, 19 April 2008
BBC admits highly contentious comments in support of Haslam should have been challenged

THE BBC has finally admitted it was at fault to allow ex-Stags boss and TV pundit Carlton Palmer to make unchallenged remarks on Match Of The Day about Mansfield Town owner Keith Haslam.
And, after a length investigation, it has now upheld complaints by hundreds of supporters that there was no balance to that part of the MOTD programme.

Palmer, a studio guest for the live coverage of the Stags' FA Cup clash with Middlesbrough in January, angered hundreds of Town fans with his on-air backing for the controversial owner.

His comments were alowed to go unchallenged by presenter Gabby Yorath.

In a pre-match studio discussion with Logan, former Mansfield manager Palmer - a friend of Haslam - was asked for his views on what the cup run had done for the town and how important the football club was to the town of Mansfield.

But he ignored the question and launched into a backing of the underfire Haslam.

Palmer was allowed to infer, unchallenged, that the controversial owner had put his own money into the Stags and built a new stadium – when fans point out that the funding for the new stands at Field Mill came from grants.

The unpopular ex-Stags manager told presenter Gabby Logan: "The club is struggling with the supporters wanting the chairman (Haslam) out. He has done a fantastic job over the last 15 years, built a new stadium and the club has come a long way.

"Hopefully the supporters will realise the job the chairman has done here. They will realise if the club doesn't have anyone to put any money into it, who is going to run it, so they can't hound him out."

That prompted a deluge of angry comments to the BBC from incensed supporters because the BBC had not challenged his view or mentioned his long-standing friendship with Haslam, did not allow protesting fans the right of reply – or the chance to air their grievances of the stewardship of the Stags by Mr Haslam.

Initially, when challenged by Chad, the BBC said: "Carlton expressed his personal opinion, which is what we expect all our pundits to do."

But when complaints from more than 100 fans were made, the BBC backed down slightly and admitted that Palmer's comments 'could have been challenged'.

However, the 'apology' failed to placate many fans and after further complaints the Editorial Complaints Unit agreed to look into the affair.

It was asked why the BBC used Palmer as a pundit given his close relationship with Haslam and why his views went unchallenged when the corporation was aware of the sensitive issues surrounding the fans and the owner.

On Saturday, in a letter to those who complained, Head of Editorial Complaints Fraser Steele writes:

"Match of the Day Live, Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough, BBC1, 26 January 2006

"Further to our acknowledgement of your complaint about comments made by Carlton Palmer in the above programme, we've now had the opportunity to watch a recording of it and discuss your concerns with the programme makers. I'm sorry this has taken longer than we had initially led you to expect.

"The remit of the Editorial Complaints Unit is to consider complaints in the context of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and to come to a view on whether or nor the matter complained of represents a serious breach of the standards expressed in them.

"You have expressed your complaint in terms of lack of balance on a controversial matter, and I am considering it in relation to the section of the guidelines dealing with impartiality (which can be seen at

"I should perhaps mention that I would not regard every dispute arising from a sporting matter as constituting the kind of controversy to which considerations of impartiality apply.

"However, I think the scale and character of the dispute about Keith Haslam's tenure at Mansfield Town FC bring it within the scope of the Impartiality Guidelines which say:

·We can explore or report on a specificaspect of an issue or provide an opportunity for a single view to be expressed, but in doing so we do not misrepresent opposing views. They may also require a right of reply.
·We must ensure we avoid bias or an imbalance of views on controversial subjects.

"Having researched the background to the controversy, and taken advice from BBC colleagues with an informed view of the issues, it appears to us that there is a body of evidence to show that Mr Palmer's claims about what had been achieved during Mr Haslam's tenure at Mansfield Town were, at the very least, highly contentious.

"When we discussed the matter with the programme-makers, they told us that the presenter, Gabby Logan, had a prepared script of questions to put to the two pundits in the studio on the day and that her question to Lee Dixon about Arsenal's defeat by Wrexham, which immediately followed Carlton Palmer's coments, was in line with that script. In hindsight, the programme-makers have acknowledged that it would have been better if the comments had been challenged. At the time, however, it was a spur-of–the–moment judgement in the context of a live programme, and it was felt that priority was to keep the discussion on track.

"Again, with the benefit of hindsight, I think the wrong judgement was made, and that Mr Palmer's comments should have been either challenged or or appropriately balanced.

"There was no challenge, either at the time the remarks were made or elsewhere in the programme, and I agree with you that the later sequence which featured a protest by fans outside the ground didn't amount to appropriate balance, because it didn't make clear that it was precisely the kind of claims made by Mr Palmer that the protestors would contest.

"For these reasons I am upholding your complaint. A summary of my finding, along with a note of the action taken as a result of this decision, will be posted on the BBC's complaints website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints in due course, and I will notify you when this has happened. In the meantime I hope yo uwill accept my apologies on behalf of the BBC, and thanks for taking the time to raise your concerns with us."


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