Primark and BBC Panorama: the true story

Timeline of events

2007

October: Dan McDougall alleges use of child labour in supply chain of US retailer GAP. Report appears in the Guardian newspaper.

6 November: Dan McDougall meets Panorama.

December: Dan McDougall travels to Bangalore, southern India, employs Mr K as his driver, films in workshops and homes in Bangalore. He films no footage of Primark clothes. He visits a workshop belonging to Mr S twice and films boys working on cloth.

Panorama agrees to further trip to India.

 

2008

17 February: Dan McDougall flies to Delhi, India.

21 February: Dan McDougall travels to Tirupur.

23 February (Saturday) –Dan McDougall films in Bhavanisagar refugee camp. While there alone, he films one boy and one girl apparently working on Primark garments at home.

24 February: Dan McDougall travels to Pollachi (67km south-west of Tirupur), purchases Primark tops from a sub-contractor to a supplier. He also films adult women homeworkers sewing sequins onto these tops in Pollachi.

Dan McDougall sends e-mail to Panorama, claiming to have filmed two groups of children working on Primark garments. He can only be referring to the refugee camp footage and the boys in Bangalore (which he does not actually film until the next day). He subsequently says he has made a mistake in this email.

25 February: Dan McDougall flies to Bangalore, and is met by Mr K. They return to the workshop owned by Mr S. He gives the boys the brown tops which he bought the day before and asks boys to pretend to work on them whilst he films.

The film is on a tape that contains the footage from Pollachi filmed the previous day – the effect is to make the whole sequence appear to have been shot around Tirupur (where Mr McDougall was known to be staying), in accordance with the e-mail of the 24 February. Other Bangalore footage taken on 25 February is shot on another tape.

26 February: Dan McDougall flies to Delhi.

27 February: Dan McDougall flies to the UK. He e-mails Panorama about the other Bangalore footage – but omits any mention of the Primark Bangalore footage.

3 March: Dan McDougall reviews the footage he has obtained against Primark in an e-mail to Panorama. Again, Mr McDougall describes the Bangalore footage as having been obtained in Tirupur.

April: Panorama team accompanies Dan McDougall to Delhi and Tirupur. The team does not visit Bangalore. No further footage is obtained of anyone actually working on Primark clothing in Tirupur: and in Delhi only two short clips of adults working on Primark garments were obtained.

May: Panorama informs Primark of intention to broadcast, instigating the right of reply process.

Primark questions both the Bangalore and refugee camp footage (from stills only, the footage was never supplied to Primark for viewing before broadcast)

23 May: Panorama deputy editor rejects suggestion that footage in Bangalore may have been staged.

22 June: Publication in the Observer newspaper of an article by Dan McDougall, “The hidden face of Primark fashion.” The article features a girl called Manteesh, said to have been in the Bhavanisagar refugee camp but who is not on film. Dan McDougall declined to provide any notes or evidence to the BBC Trust to support the content of this interview with this girl. Bangalore footage is not referred to in the article.

23 June: BBC broadcasts Panorama hour-long special, “Primark on the Rack”.

1 July: Primark formally complains to the BBC Director General about the broadcast.

9 July: Panorama deputy editor rejects the complaint.

23 July: Primark escalates its complaint to BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU).

5 September: ECU rejects complaint.

2009

February: Primark investigation formally interviews Mr K, Mr S and the 3 boys in Bangalore, and other witnesses in Tirupur.

31 July: Primark asks ECU to reopen its complaint, following discovery of significant further evidence.

7 August: ECU confirms it is reopening the complaint.

Thereafter ECU provides Primark evidence to Mr McDougall / Panorama, for their initial written response and subsequent review.

2010

18 February: ECU hands its provisional findings to Dan McDougall and Panorama for review.

9 March: ECU issues provisional findings to Primark. Primark responds with lengthy representations and further evidence including expert evidence, which is not admitted by the ECU.

3 April: ECU confirms its findings. Primark had not succeeded “in establishing that there was falsification”, but there was nevertheless “”an unresolved issue about the authenticity of the disputed material”. There had been breaches of editorial guidelines on accuracy, fairness, and secret recording.

  • The Bangalore footage was not adequately verified before it was transmitted. This was a breach of the requirements of the accuracy guidelines that BBC output should be “well sourced, based on sound evidence [and] thoroughly tested” and was also a breach of the guidelines on fairness as applied to Primark
  • The impression given during the right to reply process that the Bangalore footage was all substantiated by footage filmed on hidden cameras was misleading on a material point and thus there was a breach of the right of reply provisions in the guidelines on fairness, contributors and consent.
  • Due to the failure to adequately verify the Bangalore footage, there was not sufficient justification under the secret recording guidelines, which include overt filming for an undisclosed purpose, to broadcast the Bangalore footage
  • The programme inaccurately portrayed the orders heard in the Bangalore footage as being given to the boys by their “manager”, whereas in fact the words were spoken by Mr K. This was misleading in relation to the viewers’ understanding of what they are seeing, particularly in view of the script line “When we asked their ages their manager made sure they kept silent”, which imputed a sinister meaning to the words. This was a further breach of the accuracy guideline.

The ECU report reveals to Primark for the first time that:

  • Dan McDougall had sent an e-mail to Panorama from Tirupur, claiming to have footage of the boys the day before that footage was filmed in Bangalore, 300 km away.
  • Dan McDougall had swapped camera tapes before filming in Bangalore, giving the impression that the footage was shot in Tirupur. This was revealed by hidden time / date stamps on the films Primark understand were not known to Dan McDougall.

6 April: Primark appeals to the BBC Trust on the grounds that the ECU’s decision was wrong and its approach was fundamentally flawed. The Trust subsequently reopens the inquiry and decides to re-examine all the evidence.

21 July: Preliminary decision of the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust (“ESC”) that the ECU should have accepted Primark’s expert report as evidence and allowing the evidence to be admitted in the appeal.

November: Trust editorial adviser travels to Bangalore to interview the Bangalore witnesses and visit the workshop.

Dan McDougall and the Panorama team refused to be interviewed by the BBC Trust and instead provided written responses with the benefit of legal advice.

2011

June: Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC considers the complaint and drafts its ruling.

16 June: BBC Trust issues its findings.

  • Timeline of events

  • Primark statement

  • Find out more

  • BBC apology

    BBC apology to Primark

  • Media enquiries

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