BBC to pay £ 30,000 to Bangladeshi Labor councilor for identity mix-up | BBC
The BBC has agreed to pay £ 30,000 in damages to a British Bangladeshi Labor councilor after it mixed her up with Apsana Begum in a news item about the MP facing housing fraud charges.
Pictures of Liza Begum at an event to launch Labor’s 2019 race and faith manifesto were broadcast on BBC London News during an exchange on 29 October 2020, in which the BBC London political correspondent said: “This is Apsana Begum… she faces three charges of dishonesty . ”
Although the correspondent said that Apsana Begum, who is also British Bangladeshi, had vigorously contested the “false and malicious allegations” – she would later be acquitted – the BBC admitted that the meaning of the BBC One broadcast was that “there are reasonable grounds to suspect that [Liza Begum] had engaged in housing fraud ”.
A statement read out in court on Tuesday said: “The misidentification caused Ms Begum particular distress because it seemed another example of the BBC, and the media generally, misidentifying BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people, which fed into racist tropes.
“She was particularly distressed that the confusion was of two women of color appearing at a race and faith event, and that nobody in the BBC corrected it before the film of her was broadcast.”
Begum first contacted the BBC on the night of the offending broadcast and an apology was broadcast in the following day’s bulletin. She then began an action for defamation, also requesting that the BBC publicly commit to new processes to prevent the misidentification of BAME people.
The letter of claim, sent by her solicitors Rahman Lowe, cited previous examples of the BBC confusing the black Labor MPs Dawn Butler and Marsha de Cordova, and the black basketball players LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
The BBC’s response to the letter of claim said: “Here, the error occurred because the video in question was incorrectly labeled as identifying your client because she and Apsana Begum appeared at the same Labor event where the recording in question was captured. That was what caused the original confusion in the archive. That does not make the mistake ‘racist’ as your client has claimed online. ”
The corporation also said that the letter of claim had “cite[d] examples of misidentifications by other media organizations which have nothing to do with race or background ”.
Begum said on Tuesday: “It is right that the BBC has publicly apologized for its mistake, but time and time again we have seen the BBC and other organizations make the same mistake with people of color. It is unacceptable that the media make such mistakes and it reflects a deep-seated notion that all people of color look the same.
The High Court heard how the BBC refused to make a public commitment to put processes in place to guard against this in the future. I hope that the BBC will now implement processes to ensure mistakes such as this do not happen again and improve diversity within the organization. ”
The court heard that the BBC said it could not report to Begum on processes that it would put in place to guard against misidentification because it would be inconsistent with its independence and accountability to its regulator.
Begum was elected to Westminster council, central London last year, having previously been a Labor party activist and community and social housing campaigner.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We are very sorry for the distress this has caused. It was a genuine mistake during a live program that arose from archive footage being incorrectly labeled in our system. We apologized on air at the first opportunity and took immediate steps to correct our system. We recognize we must do better so have taken steps internally to avoid similar situations occurring. ”