Curiouser and curiouser

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.
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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.”


Anonymous said…
Oh deary me, the Nazism argument will be difficult to play down with the last para's revelation about Mr Kisko! This saga is such a soap opera. I await the report with interest...
Bodil Carlsson said…
Excuse me...but mr. Kisko´s possible political preferences - and the British Nationalist Party, whatever one may feel about it, is a legal political organization, is it not? - can have nothing to do with his wife´s employer´s traditional luggage of ideas on "pedigree" qualities in dogs.
Very possibly, the tradiotional dog world´s assumptions and obssessions about "lineages", "blood lines", purity of origin, etc etc, have roots in common with murky old ideas about genetic superiority and inferiority in humans and animals - it was part and parcel of very much political thought before and at the beginning of the 20ieth century. An extreme offshoot was the Nazi version of "racial superiority". We would do well to consider that background and the absolute disasters which those patterns of thought engendered. The eugenics movement built on misunderstood genetics, not on facts. But that does NOT mean mrs Kisko, or the KC, is in any way connected to the Nazi Party!
Serious discussion is needed in the concerns with the health and welfare of dogs, and WE should NOT build our argument on misunderstanding or misrepresenting facts.
Bodil Carlsson
Beverley Cuddy said…
Hi Bodil
I happen to totally agree with you that the Times were wrong to bring in a KC employee's husband's political views to their story.
I've just relayed the story as printed here and am trying not to comment, to be honest at the moment there's very little more anyone can do as it's a very confusing and fast-moving series of events.
Just keeping my ear to the ground for developments and passing news on as I hear it.
But I agree we should be looking at facts and dogs.
Anonymous said…
really appreciated that response Beverly, well said!
Pai said…
You 'related links' in the post aren't actually hotlinked anywhere, just fyi.

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