THE decision to go ahead with a controversial BBC documentary about North Korea went “right to the top”, according to the corporation’s head of news programming.
Ceri Thomas made the comment as he rejected claims that students had been forced to run unacceptable risks during undercover filming of the investigation.
A BBC crew was embedded in a group from the London School of Economics (LSE) to gather material for the Panorama report, which was scheduled to be aired last night.
The university claims key information was withheld from students, who were used “as a human shield” and put in danger during the eight-day visit to the communist country.
Sir Peter Sutherland, chairman of LSE’s court of governors, said some of the party had not been fully informed about the plans before leaving.
“I am amazed the case is being made that in some way these students, misled, going into perhaps the most dangerous place on Earth, should be forced to allow a programme to take place that they oppose,” he said.
Three students have since complained and the BBC has agreed to pixelate their images. But Sir Peter suggested that other representatives from the university could now be at risk when travelling abroad.
Mr Thomas denied that briefing of the students had been “shambolic”, insisting they had been repeatedly spoken to individually and as a group.
“We think the risks as we explained them to the students were justified,” he said.“But I need to be absolutely clear that if we had any suggestion that lives were at risk or anything approaching that –
either the BBC team’s lives or the lives of the students – then we wouldn’t have gone anywhere near this.”