Will Wyatt’s report into the release of a misleading trailer promoting a scene that apparently showed the Queen stalking off a set in a huff was released late last week. It prompted the resignations of Stephen Lambert, the creative director of the production company that made the programme (and the trailer), together with Peter Fincham, the controller of BBC1.
More unexpectedly, it also resulted in the resignation of Jane Fletcher, the head of press at BBC1. It emerges that both Fincham and Fletcher viewed the offending trailer tape three times before it was made public, with Fletcher’s team using the tape as a central feature of the launch of the new BBC1 schedules on 11 July.
Fincham testified to Wyatt’s inquiry that he made clear to his immediate manager, director of BBC Vision, Jana Bennett, that the trailer had turned out to have been wrongly edited later that day, after the story of its inaccuracy broke. But the BBC failed to make a public apology until the following day.
It is a situation many PROs will be familiar with. You are passed information from elsewhere within your organisation (or from a client) and told to release it. Perhaps you have doubts about its accuracy, or the wisdom of the timing of its release. Depending on the culture within your organisation, you may choose to make your objections. But realistically, that option might not be available. Should you be held responsible for that information in the manner Fletcher has experienced?
There is of course, another, more mundane issue inherent in this debacle. Did the press office take enough care in checking the contents of the offending trailer before it was shown to journalists at the launch? It is a salutary warning.