In today's Times....
Patrick Foster, Valerie Elliott and Dan Sabbagh
An investigation into a BBC documentary that exposed the poor health of pedigree dogs descended into farce yesterday after the broadcaster forced Ofcom to postpone publication of its report.
The watchdog had been ready yesterday to uphold three complaints against Pedigree Dogs Exposed, ruling that the programme had treated the Kennel Club and two dog breeders unfairly.
However, the BBC’s lawyers persuaded the regulator to cancel publication of the ruling hours before it was to have been made public because they claimed that the corporation had been misled about the nature of the inquiry. They said that the watchdog had wrongly refused to consider large parts of its evidence.
The row had sparked so much controversy that the BBC dropped its coverage of Crufts.
* Critic of pedigree dog breeding quits club
* BBC ready to dock Crufts coverage
The Kennel Club said yesterday that it had lost confidence in the watchdog. Ronnie Irving, chairman of the Kennel Club, said that he was bewildered and aggrieved that the BBC had intervened. He added: “We have to admit a loss of confidence in the Ofcom complaints process.”
The Times understands that Ofcom upheld 3 out of 19 complaints against the programme, produced by Passionate Productions and broadcast in August last year, but has not quashed its central allegation that breeding techniques have led to puppies being born with disease and deformities.
The regulator is understood to have concluded that the programme was unfair to the Kennel Club when it likened the body’s stance on pedigree breeding to the eugenics movement and the Nazis. It also upheld complaints made by breeders of Rhodesian ridgebacks and cavalier King Charles spaniels that they, too, had not been treated fairly.
Relationships between the Kennel Club, the BBC and Ofcom disintegrated after a bitter briefing war. When Ofcom notified all parties of its provisional findings this summer, a leak appeared on the Dog World magazine website suggesting vindication for the Kennel Club. This was deleted after the watchdog complained that its confidentiality rules had been breached.
The BBC is understood to believe that Ofcom asked “misleading” questions when it began its investigation, and sources said that the corporation became aware of the path the watchdog was following only when it released provisional findings. The BBC submitted new evidence but claims that Ofcom refused to consider it.
The ruling is understood to require the BBC to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, which the corporation is desperate to avoid.
Sources also claimed that Kath Worrall, chairwoman of Ofcom’s Fairness Committee, which heard the complaints, had links to the dog-breeding world after acting as a show judge. Mrs Worrall said she had not sat as a judge since 1976.
The allegations of links between Nazism and the Kennel Club resurfaced yesterday after it emerged that Chris Kisko, the husband of Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the organisation, is on the list of alleged British National Party members published on the internet last month. Mr Kisko refused to comment, but Mr Irving said: “Mrs Kisko is not and has never been a member of the BNP.”