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BBC fined £28,000 for contempt of court after showing six-second clip of High Court hearing

The BBC has been fined £28,000 for contempt of court after showing footage from a High Court case in a news programme.

The broadcaster admitted twice airing a six-second clip in its regional programme South East Today.

It was seen by 500,000 viewers.


Recording and broadcasting proceedings in courts in England and Wales is not allowed.

The BBC said it had had a “collective brain freeze” in letting the clip go to air.

It has apologised and “taken extensive action to prevent it from happening again”.

The item was used as “wallpaper” – pictures playing in the background – for a report on a judicial review of Surrey County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for “fracking”.

In a High Court ruling two senior judges said:

“This was not a minor oversight…but a catalogue of serious errors by a number of people that should have been, but were not, picked up.

“It beggars belief that a team of very experienced BBC journalists, all but one of whom did not need to hear the judge’s warning at the start of the proceedings because they were well aware of the prohibition on recording court hearings, should have given no thought to the propriety of getting the hub to record the morning’s proceedings that were being conducted in the Royal Courts of Justice and viewed through live links by those who were unable to be physically present.

“They knew that this was the first day of a two-day hearing by a High Court judge of proceedings for judicial review.

“None of them would have dreamed of making a video or audio recording inside the courtroom.

“It should have been obvious to them that the fact that it was possible to view the proceedings remotely made no difference.”





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