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Ofcom report on ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ held up

‘Angry’ BBC forces postponement of report



An investigation into the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed was branded a farce this week, after the broadcaster forced Ofcom to postpone publication of its report in a what was described as a fit of “unprecedented” anger.

The watchdog had apparently been ready on Monday to uphold three out of 19 complaints against the programme, ruling that it had treated the Kennel Club and two dog breeders unfairly in its editing. In particular Ofcom was understood to have concluded that the programme was unfair to the Kennel Club when it likened the body’s stance on pedigree breeding to the eugenics movement and the Nazis. It also upheld complaints made by breeders of Rhodesian ridgebacks and Cavalier King Charles spaniels that they, too, had not been treated fairly.

However, in a last minute move, BBCs lawyers persuaded the regulator to cancel publication of the ruling, just hours before it was to have been made public, because they claimed that the corporation had been ‘misled’ about the nature of the inquiry. They said that the watchdog had wrongly refused to consider large parts of its evidence.

The initial complaint came about after the Kennel Club hired law firm Schillings to make a series of complaints about the biased content of the programme.

On Tuesday of this week, Ronnie Irving, Kennel Club Chairman, said: ‘While we appreciate the obligations which have to be observed by any regulator, we have to admit a loss of confidence in the Ofcom complaints process. Not only is it taking a very long time to be resolved - the programme was aired nearly 15 months ago - but it seems to us extraordinary that on the proposed day of the publication of Ofcom's findings, the BBC intervened at such a very late stage.

Breached

‘We feel bewildered and aggrieved by this recent development. The Ofcom process should be there to protect a legitimate complainant's position. We must trust that Ofcom will make its final determination as a matter of urgency."

Ofcom initially notified all parties of its provisional findings in the summer, however a leak appeared on a website which suggested vindication for the Kennel Club. This was deleted after the watchdog complained that its confidentiality rules had been breached.

The BBC allegedly believed that Ofcom had asked ‘misleading’ and ‘odd’ questions when it began its investigation, and sources said that the BBC became aware of the path the watchdog was following only when it released its provisional findings. The BBC submitted new evidence amidst claims that Ofcom refused to consider it.

The ruling is understood to require the BBC to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, which the corporation is apparently desperate to avoid.

An insider told a national broadsheet that they has never known such anger inside the BBC about a ruling. ‘Very, very senior figures were furious. Judicial reviews were considered. Ofcom have given in to the pressure,’ they said.

It is understood that Ofcom would stand by its decisions on Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

Ofcom, the BBC and Pedigree Dogs producer/director Jemima Harrison all declined to comment.

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