Comments made by a UK minister in defence of the ‘Rape Clause’ were not important enough to report, the Editor of Reporting Scotland has said.
Esther McVey claimed the policy, which forces women who have been raped to provide details of their experience in order to claim benefits for a third child, was providing “extra help” for rape victims by offering them “an opportunity to talk”.
The Tory MP made the comments when appearing before a Holyrood committee on April 16th.
The remarks were slammed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who described them as “outrageous”. The comments caused widespread anger and appeared on several newspaper front pages.
Marion Nisbet, secretary of campaign group Disabled People Against the Cuts Glasgow, was escorted out by police after McVey made her remarks.
Outside parliament, the campaigner said: “I’m not often speechless, but for her to think that some women are going to be assisted by being put through that horrendous system…
“The truth of the matter is that there’s a lot of women in relationships who are abused who are so frightened of their abuser that they will not speak out.
“For her to sit in their and say that basically getting your money taken off you is doing you a favour is just vile.”
However when a report of the episode was broadcast on Reporting Scotland later that evening, McVey’s remarks were missing from the item. Viewers heard McVey’s initial response to Green MSP Alison Johnstone before the video was abruptly cut.
The broadcast led to a complaint being submitted to the BBC, which read:
“The ‘Rape Clause’ comments from Esther McVey were clearly the most newsworthy aspect of her entire appearance, yet they were edited out of the programme.
“So controversial were the comments that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called them ‘outrageous’. Several journalists made clear their own shock at the nature of the comments which made front page news on several newspapers.
“The comments from Esther McVey should not have been edited out of the programme given other far less newsworthy comments were broadcast.”
However in a statement in response to the complaint, the Editor of Reporting Scotland insisted the item had been “fair and accurate”, before adding: “This was a report on the proceedings of a parliamentary committee taking evidence and the views of the First Minister and individual journalists are therefore not necessarily relevant to this particular report.
“You regard the comments which were not included as “clearly the most newsworthy aspect of her entire appearance”. I do not agree. Similarly I differ from your view that ‘other far less newsworthy comments were broadcast’. ”
The claim from the BBC official that McVey’s comments were not the most newsworthy aspect of her appearance are at odds with an online article published by the BBC itself which highlighted McVey’s description of the ‘Rape Clause’ as an ‘opportunity’ in the headline.
Indyref2 understands that the complaint will be pursued to the next stage of the BBC complaints process.
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