BBC4 rapped by Ofcom over 'unfair' editing

BBC4 has been reprimanded by Ofcom for 'unfair' editing in an edition of its documentary Crisis at the Castle broadcast in June 2007. By Ben Dowell

BBC4 has been reprimanded by the media regulator, Ofcom, for "unfair" editing in an edition of its observational documentary Crisis at the Castle broadcast in June last year.

The regulator today upheld a complaint of unfair treatment from a member of the public over a programme from the three-part series, which included footage of rowdy behaviour from his wedding at Sudeley Castle, in the Cotswolds. Ofcom has ordered BBC4 to broadcast a summary of the findings.

Crisis at the Castle included a sequence featuring the wedding of the complainant, Matthew Butler, held in a marquee at Sudeley Castle.

This was intercut with footage of Lady Ashcombe, the co-owner of the castle, entertaining a group of friends at a cocktail party in her private apartment and complaining about such events as the "bane" of her life.

Ofcom today ruled that the impression was wrongly given that the wedding footage – which also featured a drunken wedding guest being ejected from the reception by the castle's event manager – and the private cocktail party occurred at the same time when they happened on different days.

"This was done by the intercutting of pictures of the wedding – in particular footage of the altercation between the event manager and the drunken wedding guest – together with footage from Lady Ashcombe's private gathering and audio from a separate interview in which she criticised weddings," the regulator's ruling stated.

"In addition Ofcom also noted that the programme makers had broadcast audio (noise and music) from the wedding footage over footage of Lady Ashcombe's cocktail party.

"This reinforced the impression that both events were taking place at the same time. In Ofcom's view this unfairly placed particular emphasis on Mr Butler's wedding and created the unfair impression that it had caused Lady Ashcombe and her guests disturbance when there was no material to suggest that this was actually the case."

In its submission to Ofcom the BBC had argued that "it had already been made clear in earlier footage in the programme that Lady Ashcombe found weddings and other events intrusive" and that "there was no implication that Mr Butler's wedding had caused her more inconvenience or annoyance than any other".

However, the BBC acknowledged what Ofcom described as "a degree of unfairness to Mr Butler, his family and guests arising from the fact that the wedding did not take place on the same date as the social event hosted by Lady Ashcombe with which it was intercut".

Crisis at the Castle followed three aristocratic families struggling to keep their historic homes, which was made by the independent production company Wall to Wall.

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Ben Dowell

The GuardianTramp

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