THE BBC's flagship current affairs programme Newsnight has been strongly criticised by its own standards watchdog for its handling of an interview with former Chief Minister Frank Walker about events at Haut de la Garenne. The damning report from the trust, published today, criticises Newsnight for the way Senator Walker was portrayed during the interview with Mr Paxman two days after the first claims, now dismissed, that children may have been murdered at the former home. Senator Walker and former Health and Social Services Minster Stuart Syvret were interviewed live outside Haut de la Garenne, where ex-deputy police chief Lenny Harper had sparked off an international media frenzy with a press conference to announce that human remains had been found there. A complaint made by a member of the public against the programme has been upheld, and the trust is to write to the BBC's deputy director-general to ensure that programme makers correct 'serious errors' in future.
Channel Reports's website noted that:
In an interview, which was broadcast last February, the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman repeatedly misquoted then-Senator Walker, accusing him of saying the former Health Minister, Senator Stuart Syvret, was trying to "shaft Jersey".Jeremy Paxman did correct himself after the interview and accept the former Chief Minister never used those words, but the BBC Trust found he didn't go far enough in apologising.There were a number of complaints - including one from Mr Walker's stepson, Adam Spurr - calling on the BBC to make an "official, well- published apology".Having read this, you would be forgiven for thinking that former Senator Frank Walker had not in fact uttered the memorable words "You're trying to shaft Jersey, internationally", words which really are pretty appalling for a chief minister to use.
In fact, Jeremy Paxman misquoted Walker's words, putting in words about Jersey's international reputation, which while not accurately reflecting the appalling rude and unstatesmanlike language of Walker himself, surely conveyed the gist of his strongly expressed feeling, while not descending to the same level of gutter slang.
Such language as used by Frank Walker has only been topped in recent times locally by the poor jokes from the Deputy Chief Minister of Guernsey. While he wanted to retain his job, at least that individual had the grace to apologise for his remark. Walker, on the other hand, took pride in standing by what he had said, and telling the States effectively that the standards of language one can expect from a Chief Minister of Jersey can incorporate cheap and nasty insults.
So let's get it clear. Walker did say: "You're trying to shaft Jersey, internationally", and the serious error was that it was misquoted and bowdlerized by Paxman to language more appropriate to the dignity of a senior member of the Island's parliament than was in fact the case.
To put the record completely straight, here is the UNEDITED transcript supplied by the States of Jersey's own website. This is what was actually said:
SS: “Frank we’re talking about dead children.”
FW: “Yes Stuart exactly. So you shouldn’t be politicising it you should now be throwing your support behind the Police and behind every effort to find out who was responsible.”
SS “Indeed I have repeatedly expressed my full support.”
FW – “No you’re trying to shaft Jersey internationally.”