BBC ‘Reality Check’ – Hoist by its own petard

By Paul Homewood

One of our colleagues, Joe Public, has had a taste of the BBC complaint system maze. It never ceases to amaze me why the BBC fight to the bitter end to admit that they have made a mistake.

This is Joe’s account:


BBC ‘Reality Check’ – Hoist by its own petard

Following a year-long internal investigation, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) has finally upheld a simple complaint of a factual error in a graphic and its commentary in a Feb 2022 article then titled "Europe gas prices: How far is Russia responsible?” had fallen short of the BBC’s standards of due accuracy.

Attributed to its ‘Reality Check’ team to give a veneer of credibility, they erroneously claimed that at that time the UK had 8.5TWh of natural gas in storage, and our storage capacity was 100% full.



It was pointed out that on that day, National Grid data showed that Britain had 19.5TWh in stock – 12.785 TWh in underground storage plus 6.72TWh as LNG. Pre-Rough reopening, we had 31TWh of storage capacity, so it was 63% full.

Other public sources confirming our gas storage capacity are OFGEM and the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES)


On 3rd Aug the BBC’s Quentin Smith attempted to justify the use of Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) data. This was rejected because the Reality Check team misunderstood or misinterpreted GIE’s data.


Mr Smith’s 2nd response was rejected. Not least because a BBC ‘stealth edit’ disappeared the offending claims 5/6 days after the original complaint. So on 24th Oct the complaint was escalated up to the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU), pointing it to National Grid’s Daily Summary Report.

Puzzled by the BBC’s erroneous statements regarding our gas storage stock, on 25th Oct I emailed GIE direct pointing out the discrepancy between its data and National Grid’s data. An amazingly swift reply next day from GIE’s Chief Technology Officer, David Defour provided the key.


BREXIT was to blame! /sarc

The BBC’s Reality Check team (and other organisations inc the FT & Statista) failed to understand the significance of the ‘Post Brexit’ annotation, and so looked no further than GIE’s ’summary’ row that reported only part of our underground storage stock. They all ignored our LNG stock which post-Brexit has blank (NOT zero) entries against each facility, shown on a separate tab



A day after the anniversary of the original complaint Fraser Steel, head of ECU was emailed, cataloguing the sad saga.

The next day, Dominic Groves ECU Deputy Head, responded that a BBC reply should have reached me on 2 Feb and a summary was to be published on the BBC Complaints website.

Over a year after the original complaint, this appeared:


Conclusion: The Reality Check team didn’t.

So much for the BBC’s Editorial Standards boast of being “… open in acknowledging mistakes…”  As Paul and many NaLoPKT readers are aware, the challenging part is to get the Beeb to admit its mistakes.


March 2, 2023 at 02:33AM

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