The BBC’s governing body has found a 2015 Watchdog consumer affairs programme featuring Pets at Home lacked accuracy and had failed to be impartial or fair in its portrayal of the company – constituting a serious breach of the broadcaster’s own editorial guidelines.
The BBC Trust said: “In 2015, an edition of Watchdog included a report on the pet store chain Pets at Home.
“Pets at Home made a number of complaints about the programme, several of which the BBC Trust has upheld.
“Overall, the trust considers the report was not duly accurate and some aspects were not duly impartial and not fair to Pets at Home.
“There were claims that were not duly accurate about pet welfare at some stores and the programme failed to reflect fairly the overall evidence gathered in the investigation, including examples of good practice.
“The BBC Trust acknowledges the strong public interest in Watchdog conducting investigations.
“However, on this occasion the trust found the failings were a serious breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
The eight-minute undercover consumer investigation claiming evidence of mistreatment of small animals, dead fish in tanks left to rot and sick animals for sale was broadcast on the BBC One programme in June 2015.
At the time, Pets at Home described the claims to Veterinary Times as: “…misleading and, in many cases, simply wrong”.
Concluding its report, the BBC Trust noted its decisions on the various points of appeal, particularly the finding there had been a “failure of due accuracy relating to the item as a whole, as well as failures of the guidelines on impartiality, privacy and fairness relating to various points”.
It continued: “Together, these constitute a serious breach of the editorial guidelines and warrant an appropriate broadcast summary of the trust’s findings.
“The item must also be removed from the website.”
Ian Kellett, group chief executive at Pets at Home, said: “We said at the time Watchdog’s claims were misleading, or simply wrong.
“It gives us no pleasure the BBC Trust has recognised we were right.
“It is clear, for Watchdog, it was more important to shock than to be accurate or fair, but at least now with the publication of the BBC Trust’s findings, people can see the truth.”
- A copy of the BBC Trust report can be found at http://bbc.in/2nLhbt2