The Telegraph has launched a trademark attack on the BBC, claiming the organisation has been wasting money on luxury accommodation:
The Telegraph reports:
"The BBC has been accused of extravagance after it hired luxury accommodation for a 65 strong team ...to film a documentary about lambing. During filming ...the entire 65-strong team set up camp in a country house hotel where rooms cost up to £279-a-night."
But anybody familiar with the Telegraph's regular and often rather over-reaching attacks on the BBC may have already read the words "up to £279-a-night" and sensed a whiff of deliberate distortion in the air - and with good reason. Despite the headline claim, repeated in the opening paragraphs, it turns out the BBC actually paid just £58 per night – a detail the Telegraph does eventually acknowledge towards the end of its article.
And despite knowing its headline claim to be deliberately misleading, the Telegraph still sought some rentaquote outrage from right-wing pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance who gladly criticised such "lavish expense" (the Taxpayers' Alliance seem to be the go-to people for supporting quotes in misleading media reports).
The Telegraph also criticised the BBC for not choosing instead to stay at the Meadows B&B in Peebleshire, where the owner provided some quotes which supported the notion the BBC had sought out the most unjustifiably lavish accommodation possible.
The Telegraph reports:
"Margaret Thain, of the Meadows B&B in the Peeblesshire village, said: "I would have loved to have people staying at my B&B, but I am probably not as exclusive..."
What Margaret doesn't mention is that she is arguably far more exclusive, given she has just two bedrooms for which guests will pay between £65 and £90. That would mean the BBC would not only have been paying more to stay there but would also have had to find another 32 B&Bs of a similar size and then manage the subsequently dizzying - and no doubt prohibitively expensive - logistics of having its entire team and equipment spread so inefficiently across a few hundred square miles of southern Scotland.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said of their hotel choice:
"This was the closest hotel to the filming location that was able to accommodate this number and is located on a main road, which is necessary in case of bad weather… The rate of £58 per night was the most economically sensible choice as the hotel offered a competitive rate for a group booking. The discounted rate of £58 per night was substantially less than other hotels in the area… The BBC was also able to save on transport costs by having all crew staying at the same hotel."
Which all sounds fairly reasonable.
Of course the BBC should be accountable for how it spends the public's money and there are examples of where the Corporation has got it badly wrong in the past. But the Telegraph going to such desperate lengths to criticise the BBC undermines the credibility of its own arguments against the broadcaster far more than it undermines any arguments in support of the BBC.
Over at the Daily Mail their own predictable hatchet job was even more clumsily conducted. While whole chunks appear to have been copied word-for-word from the Telegraph's flawed story, the Mail added this very strange passage:
Alex Hogg, chairman of campaign group the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: "I don't live far from where the latest Lambing Live was filmed for the BBC. How many BBC employees were needed to run some cables round a lambing shed? A dozen maybe? Twenty max? Almost 70 people were used and they stayed in some very exclusive country club."
Now, in common with a lot of people at the Mail and the Telegraph, I have no idea how many people are needed to pull together a live broadcast of this nature, but if I really wanted to find out I probably wouldn't start by asking the chairman of a Gamekeepers Association, no matter how close he lived to the location.