WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Over 1700 people visited our webpage to look at and (hopefully) use our template letters to send to the BBC. Many more wrote their own letters of complaint. The League Against Cruel Sports also wrote to the BBC on the same subject.
The BBC came back with this reply:
Thank you for contacting us regarding The Archers on 12 September.
We understand you had concerns about the character Shula referencing ‘autumn hunting’.
We passed your concerns to The Archers production team who have responded below:
‘When characters discuss autumn hunting it is a reference to legal trail hunting, involving an artificial scent, not foxes, which the show has also done in previous years. As a fictional drama, ‘The Archers’ will continue to feature contemporary rural issues, including hunting.’
Thank you again for getting in touch.
BBC Complaints Team
If the BBC thought we’d be happy with this, then they were mistaken. On our FB page, our supporters expressed their rage and disappointment at this weak reply, which took no account at all of the points we had made in our letters. Follow up complaints must have flooded in. This was ours:
Complaint Summary: BBC is broadcasting a pro-hunting lie
I am unhappy with your answer to my complaint because you haven’t actually addressed any of the issues in it. You have said that Shula is “trail hunting” “legally”. Either the writers of The Archers are ignorant, or corrupt, or they are being pressured into being dishonest – we can only guess. But you are not, in any way, reflecting what really goes on with hunting in the countryside. The Archers is a soap opera, not a fantasy. The very use of the term “Autumn Hunting” is fanciful and it is clearly biased. It is an intentionally misleading and deceitful synonym for cub hunting. The BBC is reinforcing the lie and doing exactly what the hunters want them to do – pretending that hunting isn’t happening, hoping that people like me stop bothering them, trying to spoil their delicious fun. “Trail hunting” is also a shocking lie. I have seen “trail hunting” NOT happening on numerous occasions. Every time a hunt goes out, they are looking for a fox, not following a trail – which they haven’t set. Action Against Foxhunting has been delivering leaflets nationally exposing the lie of Autumn Hunting. We have focused particularly on hunting areas, making sure that people know the truth – that Autumn Hunting = cub hunting. If you want to reflect what really goes on in the countryside, how about AAF makes a visit to Ambridge and sticks a few of our cub hunting leaflets through their doors?? That would start a discussion. Please do not try to fob us off with another vague and false response. Explain, please, why you are using the deceitful term “Autumn Hunting” and why you are deliberately misleading your listeners with it.
Then the Daily Telegraph weighed in. On 17th September, they published this article by Helena Horton.
We have read it carefully and we are quite satisfied with it. We were delighted to have a mention at the end (after all, we started it) but most importantly, the journalist has explained very clearly why we are unhappy with the The Archers use of the deceitful term “Autumn Hunting”. With the help of our volunteer leafleters all over the country, we have been delivering our Cub Hunting leaflets, aimed at exposing the lie that is “Autumn Hunting”. The Telegraph has helped us enormously, and we hope that even more people know what Autumn Hunting really is.
There another significant point to be raised. The article mentions Jill Archer (Shula’s mother) who is a critic of Shula’s hobby. If Shula is just following an artificial trail etc etc blah blah, why on earth does Jill have a problem with it? Jill’s criticism is showing what Shula is really doing. We need to keep an ear out for it in future.
We are now all waiting for replies to our follow-up complaints.
AAF is a dogged, persistent organisation; so are our supporters. We don’t give up easily, do we? Thank you to everyone who wrote in.
THE NEXT REPLY
The BBC’s next reply repeats what they said before. They still haven’t explained why they are using a term (Autumn Hunting) which pleases pro-hunters but outrages us.
Dear Ms Donovan
Thank you for getting in touch again.
I understand you felt our previous response did not address the issues that prompted your complaint. We’ve raised your comments with the Archers production team, who have replied as follows:
We’re sorry if you were dissatisfied with the previous response.
However, we’re unable to agree that a reference to autumn hunting necessarily implies the character would be involved in illegality. Trail hunting remains an activity which can be carried out legally in the UK and there is nothing in the script of this episode to suggest that the character would actually be hunting foxes on this occasion. The reference was in keeping with previous mentions of autumn hunting on the programme, which were explained in more detail in a blog here:
If you remain dissatisfied following this reply, you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) explaining why you believe there may have been a potential breach of standards or other potentially significant issue to investigate further. For full details of our complaints process you can visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/. If you don’t have access to the internet you can usually go online at most public libraries.
If you wish to contact the ECU please write to it within 20 working days of receiving this reply. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Executive Complaints Unit, BBC, Broadcast Centre, London W12 7TQ. Please include the case reference number which you have been given.
Many thanks once again for taking the time to follow up on this matter.
BBC Complaints Team
As it’s the same reply as before, we won’t let it rest. ON WE GO…