Hidden political lobbying by the UK gambling industry

  1. In October 2017, leading political lobbying firm PLMR organised a parliamentary reception for the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), the trade body representing all sectors of the UK gambling industry. Because its a member of PR and communications body PRCA, Westminster-based PLMR discloses the clients for whom it has provided politcal lobbying services, on the publicly available PRCA public affairs and lobbying register (https://www.prca.org.uk/about-us/pr-standards/public-affairs-register). Or at least it is supposed to.
  2. On 8 January 2018, PRCA published its most recent version of the static register, that for September to November 2017. And PLMR didn’t list IGRG as a client.
  3. The IGRG parliamentary reception was on 17 October 2017 (Figure 1). As you can see, politicians wishing to attend had to RSVP to David Hall at PLMR. The event was part of IGRG‘s first Responsible Gambling Week, which ran 12-18 October 2017 – slogan: “Let’s talk about responsible gambling”. IGRG‘s press release for its campaign to promote so-called responsible gambling fails to refer explicitly to PLMR or identify any of its staff (rgwprbrief). The only mention of PLMR is in the email address for what the press release calls the campaign’s press office, responsiblegamblingweek@plmr.co.uk.

    Figure 1. Parliamentary reception for the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) during Responsible Gambling Week in October 2017 (Source of image: Harris Hagan website)

  4. IGRG comprises the five trade associations that represent all sectors of the UK gambling industry: the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB); British Amusement Machine Association (BACTA); The Bingo Association (BA); National Casino Forum (NCF); and Remote Gambling Association (RGA). IGRG chair is John Hagan, a gambling lawyer at City of London law firm Harris Hagan.
  5. Although it didn’t list IGRG as a client on the latest register, there PLMR reported working for BA. (None of the other four trade bodies appeared in the PLMR entry.)
  6. On 15 January 2018, I emailed Felicity Fisher at PLMR as shes shown as contact on the register. In her reply a week later, she confirmed I was right: her company had failed to disclose IGRG as a client on the most recent register. The omission “was purely an administrative oversight”.
  7. In the same email, Ms Fisher also said the latest supposedly static PRCA public affairs and lobbying register had been appropriately updated. She referred me to the file containing the updated register on the PRCA website.
  8. Astonishingly, theres no indication on the updated “static” register PRCA has actually amended it. In other words, the update is hidden. Theres no explicit record of when PRCA amended the register, either. So much for transparency and accountability. Highly unsatisfactory.
  9. Nicholas Dunn-Mcafee, head of public affairs, policy and research at PRCA, is contact for the register. Mr Dunn-Mcafee told me in an email his organisation considered PLMR’s failure to disclose IGRG as a client was “an administrative error and one we do not expect to happen again”. He finished: “The right course of action was to ensure this ‘static’ part of the register accurately reflects reality and therefore to update it.”
  10. In his response, Mr Dunn-Mcafee didn’t address my points about PRCA transparency and accountability arising from the hidden update of its latest supposedly static register. I therefore emailed again, pointing out his omission. There was no response.
  11. As I say, BA uses PLMR for its political lobbying. PLMR acts as secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on bingo. The purpose of the APPG is “to represent the interests of the bingo industry in parliament”, according to the parliament website.
  12. BA likes to present bingo as the so-called softer end of gambling, and thus more socially acceptable than other forms. The trade body says on its website it “promotes the position of the bingo industry as a ‘soft’ and highly social form of gambling”.
  13. So you might think BA wouldn’t want to share its political lobbyist with any or all of the four other sectors of the UK gambling industry. That BA actually shares PLMR with all of them shows bingo, despite its marketing, isn’t so different from other forms of gambling.
  14. The bingo APPG’s independence and credibility are undermined by PLMR acting for both BA and IGRG. The APPG could reasonably be perceived as open to the influence of the entire gambling industry via PLMR, not just bingo as it claims. In other words, the bingo APPG represents a hitherto-unrecognised potential means of access into parliament for sectors of the gambling industry other than bingo.
  15. In conclusion, PRCA’s secret updating of its latest supposedly static register amounts to a cover-up. How can the public trust and have confidence in the membership body when it amends its public register without openly and publicly documenting changes? Also, the bingo APPG‘s use of PLMR as secretariat means the former is open to the influence of the entire gambling industry via the latter’s work for IGRG. The onus is therefore on the APPG to prove it‘s acting for, and influenced by, exclusively the bingo industry.
  16. Labour MP Anna Turley, chair and registered contact for the bingo APPG, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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The Red Cell: who funds the Brexit thinktank and what’s its legal structure?

  1. In November 2017, veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash MP registered on the register of MPs’ financial interests donations he received for a visit to Denmark 28-29 October 2017. Sir Bill went to collect an award from the People’s Movement against the EU, for promoting democracy and international cooperation in Europe”. Brexit thinktank The Red Cell donated £500. But this only begs the question: who gave the money to The Red Cell that enabled it to pay for most of Sir Bill’s trip to the land of Lego?
  2. I first mentioned the thinktank in November last year, when writing about its director, Dr Lee Rotherham (see 22 November 2017 post). A self-styled veteran eurosceptic, Dr Rotherham tweets as “DrBrexit”. He works in parliament for Conservative MP John Hayes, who until January 2018 was Minister of State at the Department for Transport; and has done for several years. Dr Brexit is also executive director at Veterans for Britain, another thinktank. Veterans for Britain was linked to Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign in the 2016 EU referendum. Indeed, Dr Rotherham was director of special projects at Vote Leave (see 22 November 2017 post).
  3. The funding of The Red Cell is opaque. At date of publication its website says nothing about funder(s), past or present. There‘s no indication of how to donate to support its work, either, which is unusual for a thinktank.
  4. But it’s not only the funding thats opaque. Its legal structure is unclear. Again, the website fails to state this. Further, none of the companies registered at Companies House with “Red Cell” in its name appears to be the thinktank, or connected to it. Nor is there a charity registered at the Charity Commission with “Red Cell” in its name. We therefore have no idea of how the The Red Cell will do its financial reporting, if any.
  5. Neither Dr Rotherham nor Sir Bill responded to emails asking two simple questions about the Brexit thinktank. First, whats the source of funding that enabled it to cough up for most of Sir Bill’s visit? Second, what’s its legal structure?
  6. Dr Rotherham in his own name also recently funded a visit to Iceland by David Jones MP, another Brexiteer (9-10 November 2017). Mr Jones went to deliver a lecture on UK withdrawal from the EU, at the University of Iceland. Again, the donation was £500, according to his entry on the register of MPs’ financial interests. The MP’s last ministerial role was as Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, July 2016-June 2017.
  7. Something else about Mr Jones: he’s a patron of The Red Cell, the website shows (screen shot in Figure 1). Cosy.

    Figure 1. David Jones MP is a patron of Brexit thinktank The Red Cell at 8 February 2018

  8. Transparency around funding is clearly long overdue at the Brexit thinktank. But why exactly are both Dr Rotherham and Sir Bill seemingly unwilling to be open and responsive about The Red Cell and its funding?

Fake doctor’s endorsement in national newspaper ad

  1. On 8 November 2017, I saw an unclear and opaque ad in the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was for Nytric EFX, a food supplement that allegedly improves “sexual performance” in men: Daily Mirror 8 Nov 2017. The advertiser identified itself as Stirling Health Ltd. I complained to the company about two issues in the ad. In each case its response was unsatisfactory. So I then complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising.
  2. The first issue was that both the ad and the Stirling Health website (screen shot in Figure 1) display an endorsement of Nytric EFX by Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Yet I can’t find him on DoctorFinder when searching by name for Jack Johnson in state Massachusetts. DoctorFinder is the online doctor search tool from the American Medical Association. It includes “virtually every licensed physician in the United States” – “more than 814 000 doctors.”

    Figure 1. Dr Jack Johnson endorses Nytric EFX on Stirling Health website at 14 November 2017

  3. I asked Stirling Health in an email why Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA isn’t listed on DoctorFinder. Its response was unacceptable. It wrote: “I can confirm the doctors who endorse our products and adverts do not use thier (sic) real names to protect their identity and avoid infulxes (sic) of people trying to contact them, when its (sic) us that can assist witrh (sic) any queries.” As you can see, the response isn’t credible. It’s illiterate too. My reasonable suspicion is Dr Jack Johnson doesn’t exist.
  4. Emily Henwood of the ASA said in an email the company had told the regulator it would no longer use the testimonial from the alleged Dr Jack Johnson in its advertising. This was following involvement of the ASA compliance team.
  5. The second problem with the ad is: wheres Stirling Health Ltd registered, if it’s registered anywhere? There’s no UK-registered company called Stirling Health Ltd, according to Companies House records. The company said in an email “Stirling Health” (note: without the “Ltd”) was registered “in the US”. It told me the registered office address is in Florida, USA. It quoted the Florida address then on the Stirling Health” (again, no “Ltd”) website (https://web.archive.org/web/20170705024734/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). The company stated it isn’t actually registered in Florida, though, after I pointed out there’s no Florida-registered company called “Stirling Health Ltd” or “Stirling Health,” according to the official register at Sunbiz (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/).
  6. The company refused to disclose where exactly in the USA its registered, explaining in an email it was “confidential, and commercially sensitive” information. Again, the response would be laughable, if wasn’t so serious. Any legitimate business would be happy to both disclose its name and say where it’s registered. Both pieces of information should be public. In short, is Stirling Health Ltd a genuine company? If so, where exactly in the USA is it registered? It’s not enough to simply say “in the US”.
  7. The ASA’s response on this point was disappointing: the regulator wouldn’t be taking it further, said Ms Henwood in an email. She added: “The Code [the CAP Code] states that marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. For marketing communications that quote prices for advertised products, material information includes the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer. While we appreciate your concern that it isn’t clear where the company is registered, we note that the advertisers have included a trading name and contact details for consumers to get in contact with them. Given this, we consider that the ad is unlikely to mislead consumers on the basis that you suggest and does not break the rules.”
  8. At date of publication the Stirling Health website continues not to disclose where the company is registered. One change, though: the Florida address has disappeared. It now specifies an address in central London: 88-90 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8PG (https://web.archive.org/web/20180206063513/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). This is merely the address of a virtual office, you won’t be surprised to learn.
  9. A fake limited company flogging dubious “health products” from national newspaper ads, and hiding behind a virtual office address – it reminds me of Health Broadcast Ltd, a firm I first wrote about on 15 August 2017. Private Eye recently reported my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by that fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see last post).
  10. Oh, this isn’t the first time a Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX has come to the attention of the ASA. In 2010, the regulator banned one of its ads for misleading health claims (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7195031/Advert-for-pills-that-guaranteed-sex-life-of-you-dreams-is-banned.html). It isn’t just on Health Broadcast Ltd where the Mirror continues to fail its readers, therefore. How much or how little due diligence did the newspaper do on the latest Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX?
  11. Further evidence of how little: the Mirror’s excellent Andrew Penman wrote about Stirling Health Ltd in his column ten years ago, when the ASA again censured several, not just one, of its ads for misleading health claims (https://www.mirror.co.uk/opinion/money-opinion/p-s-investigates/triple-dose-of-health-rubbish-from-guernsey-534213).

Private Eye reports exposés of national newspaper ads by fake limited company for “detox foot patches”

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1462) reports my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by a fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see previous post and the reference there).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Heres a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see top right corner: Private Eye 1462.

Ad again for “detox foot patches” in Daily Mirror – despite Dr Miriam Stoppard’s warning

  1. On 19 December 2017, Daily Mirror health columnist Dr Miriam Stoppard rightly dismissed “detox foot patches” as a sham. But something she didn’t mention: her newspaper carried ads for them earlier last year (see 19 December 2017 post).
  2. Well, the same advertiser, Health Broadcast Ltd, is today (17 January 2018) back in the Mirror with a full-page ad for… “detox foot patches”: Daily Mirror 17 Jan 2018.
  3. Why does the Daily Mirror continue to fail its readers this way?

How Tim Farron evaded responsibility for registering an incorrect donation on the register of MPs’ financial interests – Lib Dems finally correct donation only at Electoral Commission after my complaint but fact of correction hidden

  1. The House of Commons Code of Conduct requires MPs to register their financial interests, if any, on the appropriately named register of MPs’ financial interests. Register entries remain in the register of MPs’ financial interests for 12 months and members can update them during that time. Once a financial interest no longer appears in the register, however, the entry cannot be revised. This creates an unsatisfactory incentive, I believe, for MPs to ignore any errors someone might identify in their register entries: after 12 months the incorrect information will disappear and cannot then be corrected. Last year, Tim Farron MP, who was Lib Dem leader at the time, failed to correct a donation he had registered on the register of MPs’ financial interests, despite three emails from me during the relevant 12 months. When I complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, then Kathryn Hudson, she said in a letter she would not begin a formal inquiry because at date of complaint the inaccurate donation was no longer shown on the register! Ms Hudson directed me to the Electoral Commission, which finally got the Lib Dems to correct the donation. Astonishingly, however, the commission online database of political donations fails to show the donation was updated, let alone when. What’s worse, the amendment is not documented anywhere on the public record.
  2. On 4 April 2016, Mr Farron registered a £2k donation on the register of MPs’ financial interests – from BTP Advisers International Ltd (registered company number: 08522892) (screen shot in Figure 1). This was incorrect, as I exclusively established (see 27 April 2017 post). The donation actually came from linked firm BTP Advisers Limited (registered company number: 07455523).

    Figure 1. Tim Farron MP on the register of MPs’ financial interests at 18 April 2016: £2k donation from BTP Advisers International Ltd (registered company number: 08522892)

  3. When I complained about this in a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in September 2017, I had sent a fourth request for comment (email) to Mr Farron, again unanswered.
  4. On Ms Hudson’s advice, I duly complained to the Electoral Commission. The regulator of political party finances told me in an email that, following correspondence with the Lib Dems, it had amended the relevant donation (screen shot in Figure 2). As you can see, there is no evidence there of the changes and when they were made. So much for transparency and accountability. Highly unsatisfactory.

    Figure 2. Electoral Commission at 16 January 2018: £2k donation from BTP Advisers Limited (registered company number: 07455523) to the Lib Dems in Tim Farron MP’s constituency, Westmorland and Lonsdale

  5. The watchdog updated the record on 16 November 2017, it added in another email, after I requested the date. It also confirmed my fear: the amendment is not documented anywhere on the public record.
  6. That’s the end of the matter, according to the Electoral Commission. It has no interest in holding Mr Farron to account for failing to register the donation accurately on the register of MPs’ financial interests. Nor is it concerned by his ignoring my four emails.
  7. MPs currently have a free pass to ignore errors in their entries on the register of MPs’ financial interests. We must close the loophole in the rules for the register that allowed the then Lib Dem leader to avoid accountability for both registering an incorrect donation and failing to rectify the error. Also, the Electoral Commission should surely routinely report any changes it makes to the political donation data it holds. Updated records in its online database must be clearly identified as such, not hidden.

The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal

  1. Here I show what I consider to be intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog by those responsible for a BBC TV programme broadcast in November 2016. The three-stage BBC complaints process was inadequate in so many ways – both process and outcome. The trusted public-service broadcaster displayed arrogance throughout as it fobbed me off with evasive and obfuscatory responses. The lessons are many – but two stand out. First, the BBC sees nothing wrong in what I allege to be its unethical conduct. Its position would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Second, the BBC can’t be trusted to deal with complaints about its journalism. Self-regulation by the BBC is no regulation.
  2. What do I mean by plagiarism? This definition from the University of Oxford website for its students is as good as any: “Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional.”
  3. The Great Military Charity Scandal” was on BBC One Scotland on 8 November 2016 at 19:00 and available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards. It was made by BBC Scotland Investigates. I haven’t written about the TV programme until now because I was following the BBC complaints process – and then that of communications watchdog Ofcom.
  4. On 28 January 2017, I wrote about the announcement by charity regulator the Charity Commission that it had opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager. The relevant commission press release, the link for which is in that post, refers to the TV programme in its “notes to editors.”
  5. Liam McDougall was the producer of “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” He first contacted me about his programme on 8 January 2016, referring in an email to the “great work” I’ve been doing on charity fraud and abuse, particularly military charities. This is on my blog, dralexmay.wordpress.com. My charity investigations have been reported in national newspapers: The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror and BuzzFeed (news website). Ive also twice appeared as a live studio guest on BBC Radio 5 live programme, 5 live Investigates, to discuss my findings. In 2016, influential Frank Field MP tabled two written parliamentary questions to the Work and Pensions Secretary after one of my charity exposés.
  6. My 28 January 2017 post gives the background on the commission’s actions on STH, describing the role of Tony Chadwick of Blackpool, his rip-off fundraising companies and three linked military charities, all high-profile: Afghan Heroes (AH), Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), and STH. Each, separately, continues to be the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the charity regulator. FOR EACH CHARITY IN TURN, I BROKE BOTH THE LINK TO MR CHADWICK AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AS WELL AS FAILURES OF REGULATION.
  7. I first wrote about STH and its link to Mr Chadwick on 21 April 2015. It was my scoop. Thus the programme-makers were guided by my revelations then and thereafter.
  8. My proof of the link was critical to the programme: both Mr Chadwick and STH had actively tried to hide their working together (see blog, passim ad nauseam).
  9. As I wrote on 28 January 2017, my first post about STH, on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposed almost all the issues the commission said in January 2017 it wants its statutory inquiry to investigate.
  10. My 28 January 2017 post acknowledges the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ (WMHCHQ), a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. There I also state when the group first contacted me about the charity, thus proving I exclusively exposed STH.
  11. WMHCHQ wouldn’t have allowed or continue to allow me to present my dealings with the group as described in the 28 January 2017 post unless accurate. WMHCHQ don’t hold back, online or offline. Nor do its followers.
  12. In addition, the WMHCHQ timeline itself confirms the timeline of events for STH.
  13. Prior to the TV programme, there were three related publicly available sources for the connection between Mr Chadwick and STH. The three are in chronological order: my blog; WMHCHQ; and The Sunday Times (2 October 2016). Both WMHCHQ and the newspaper, separately, credited me as source. Yet “The Great Military Charity Scandal” failed to acknowledge me in any way. Thus the programme-makers intentionally plagiarised facts from my blog.
  14. So what about STH was new in the TV programme? Well, BBC Scotland Investigates secretly filmed STH representatives misleading the public as to how much of the £2.50 price of a prize draw ticket actually goes to the charity. The representatives were in fact working for Mr Chadwick‘s company, Targeted Management Limited (registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed. Long-time readers of the blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by the programme’s filmed evidence. For years I’ve repeatedly written about my own and others’ experiences with Mr Chadwick‘s rip-off fundraising companies and their work for AH, OLHF and STH. My first 5 live Investigates programme in November 2014, for example, reported different people’s experiences of unsatisfactory and misleading encounters in shopping centres around the UK with OLHF representatives controlled by Mr Chadwick (see 10 November 2014 post). The OLHF representatives were flogging prize draw tickets – as were the AH representatives before them (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Mr McDougall obtained both my 5 live Investigates programmes and listened to them. I know because he told me.
  15. As well as plagiarising facts from my blog, the TV programme intentionally plagiarised images. Images only available on my blog were shown without credit or attribution. These images include, but aren’t limited to, the identifiable AH prize draw ticket, a key piece of evidence. The identifiable images were central to the programme. And the images had to be accurate and trusted for the BBC to show them on TV. Put simply, the source had to be credible. I’m the “UK’s expert,” as Mr McDougall said to me several times. It’s simply indefensible to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  16. Another indication of the importance of my images of particularly the AH prize draw ticket in “The Great Military Charity Scandal” is the fact one of them (my images of the AH prize draw ticket) appears prominently in the official 31-second trailer, too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04f16bk.
  17. As I say, here my focus is the intentional plagiarism of facts and images. Nevertheless there are many other matters I complained to the BBC about in relation to its TV programme. From January 2016, for example, I spent tens of hours talking on the phone and corresponding with the producer. He told me at the outset hed interview me on the programme – and repeatedly reminded me of the fact. Further, I lent him highly sensitive, original documents: I gave them to him in person in Manchester city centre in July 2016. (Mr McDougall was accompanied by the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, that day.) He promised hed return them in person. I didn’t stipulate delivery that way: nevertheless he said he would, and as soon as possible. At 5 December 2016the date of my first formal complaint to the BBC – I still hadn’t received my original documents. I finally received them – without apology or explanation for the delay – at the end of January 2017!
  18. On 8 November 2016, I complained to Mr McDougall in an email: Do you think I’d have spent so much time talking and corresponding with you if I’d known that you weren’t in fact going to interview me, let alone credit me in any way?” He didn’t reply.
  19. I formally complained to the BBC on 5 December 2016 in an email to the Director-General, Lord Hall, because he’s Editor-in-Chief. Imagine my surprise when I received the BBC’s response to my first formal complaint: it was written by Mr McDougall! It’s self-evidently unsatisfactory for Mr McDougall to consider my complaint on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief. Further, I regarded his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  20. So I escalated my complaint to the BBC explicitly calling for independent consideration of my complaint for the process to be credible. I also stated disclosure of emails was essential after allegations made by Mr McDougall in his response for the BBC. So who now handled my second formal complaint for the Editor-in-Chief? The programme’s executive producer, Daniel Maxwell!
  21. Mr Maxwell failed to request any emails from me. There was no evidence in his response he’d scrutinised my blog, either. And, again, I found his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  22. Thus I had no option but to escalate once more my complaint to the BBC – to its nominally independent Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). There my complaint was handled throughout by BBC complaints director, Colin Tregear.
  23. Mr Tregear instigated disclosure of emails – at last.
  24. I shall now examine how each of the three BBC responses dealt with the alleged intentional plagiarism of facts and images.
  25. First, here’s what Mr McDougall said: “All of your posts are published on a public forum, and are freely accessible via an open-source search of the internet.” He added: “… It is entirely untrue for you to suggest that you somehow hold the exclusive rights to information about Tony Chadwick, Afghan Heroes, Support the Heroes or Our Local Heroes Foundation. As I say, there is much publicly available information about these organisations and indeed your posts themselves place the information in the public arena.” Astonishingly, the producer also wrote: “And surely, given that the facts have been published by you means that by definition the information is public and freely available?” And another vague statement: “Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  26. True, my blog is accessible to all – but use by a third party of the information published there, including images, requires credit and attribution. Otherwise it’s intentional plagiarism. Prior to the TV programme, the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH was exclusively broken by me – and then picked up in turn by WMHCHQ and The Sunday Times (see above). Both, separately, acknowledged me as source. The BBC did not.
  27. Now onto the BBC’s second response, from Mr Maxwell. He said: “On the allegation of plagiarism, it is untrue to say that our producer ‘intentionally plagiarised’ your blog. As you know, for many months the BBC was in discussion with you about the nature and content of some of the BBC investigation. The fact that we featured individuals like Tony Chadwick and the charity Support the Heroes would have been no surprise to you. In fact, our producer had discussed some of the detail we would feature in the programme with you and you were entirely happy for us to do this. That said, every piece of information contained in the programme was gathered, checked and verified beyond something simply being repeated from your blog. Everything was corroborated independently of any single source. In addition, information regarding concerns about Mr Chadwick, Afghan Heroes and Support the Heroes used in the programme was already public. Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  28. Note Mr Maxwell‘s vague final sentence there. Sound familiar? He copied it from Mr McDougall! (see above) As you can see, the executive producer, too, ignored the provenance of the published evidence for the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH. He also said nothing about use of images from my blog without due acknowledgement. On the alleged plagiarism, then, Mr Maxwell was as evasive and obfuscatory as Mr McDougall before him.
  29. Finally, what did Mr Tregear of the ECU say? On the intentional plagiarism of facts, he wrote: “… I understand you may have been the first person to uncover information about Tony Chadwick, his businesses, his links with military charities such as Afghan Heroes and Support The Heroes and failures of regulation. However, to the best of my knowledge, you were not the only source for the information which was included in the programme and much of the information was already in the public domain.” The BBC complaints director concluded: “… I appreciate why you say you should have been credited in the programme and I can understand why you are annoyed that didn’t happen. However, I cannot agree there was intentional plagiarism of your work bearing in mind much of what you had written had been repeated elsewhere in the media and in official reports.”
  30. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, Mr Tregear stated: “… The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines include guidance on the use of pictures from social media and third party websites [9]. It recognises that material which has been put in the public domain via publication on a website or social media may be re-used but programme-makers should consider the original intention in publication and the impact of any re-use. The guidance says ‘A picture available without meaningful restrictions on a website may be considered to be in the public domain and the media may consider that it has the right to exploit it – but that does not always make it the right thing to do.‘ In this case, I think the manner in which the images were re-used matched the original use, namely illustrating the activities of military charities, and there were no particular privacy issues arising from their use. I therefore cannot see how the use led to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
  31. Thus the BBC complaints director dismissed my allegations of intentional plagiarism. He finished: “…This will be the BBC’s final finding on your complaint unless there are reasons to modify or amend it in light of any comments you may wish to make.” So I duly sent comments as I was not satisfied with his rationale for dismissing my allegations of intentional plagiarism.
  32. The chronology, I pointed out, is critical: how and when did facts become first uncovered and reported? It’s self-evidently unacceptable to not credit me for breaking the relevant stories, particularly the link between Mr Chadwick and STH. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, I said his response would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Privacy isn’t relevant here. It’s simply indefensible, I repeated, to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  33. In his reply, Mr Tregear said he saw no reason to amend his decision. In particular, he stated: “I agree it would have been courteous to acknowledge your role [in breaking the link between Mr Chadwick and STH] but as I said in my letter of 18 July there is nothing in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which says sources of information have to be given public credit; the requirement is to ensure material is checked and verified.”
  34. Because I was so dissatisfied with the BBC’s final decision, I still wrote back. There I also brought to Mr Tregear‘s attention the fact he’d referred in his last letter to Save The Heroes” (sic), not STH. There was no response, no correction.
  35. Having exhausted the BBC’s complaints process, I submitted a complaint about the alleged intentional plagiarism to communications regulator Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC, too. Unfortunately, it said in a letter my complaint failed to “engage any rules in the Code [Ofcom Broadcasting Code] and is therefore out of our remit”.
  36. My experience with the BBC should be a warning to any individual or organisation that undertakes and publishes original investigations. According to its complaints director, the BBC could use facts you’re the first to uncover and report – but without crediting you in any way. It could without due acknowledgement use images you exclusively publish, too.
  37. Then there’s something else: BBC Scotland Investigates, remember, made the TV programme. Plagiarism is self-evidently unacceptable and unethical. It’s even worse when the journalism styles itself as investigative.
  38. Never mind “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” This is surely The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal.