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BBC edits Any Questions? to remove Haverhill slur

Radio 4 broadcasting Any Questions live from the drama studio hosted by David Dimbleby.

Radio 4 broadcasting Any Questions live from the drama studio hosted by David Dimbleby.

The BBC edited a radio show recorded in Haverhill after saying the town suffered from ‘high rates of unemployment and poverty’.

The BBC edited a radio show recorded in Haverhill after saying the town suffered from ‘high rates of unemployment and poverty’.

Radio 4’s flagship show ‘Any Questions?’ was hosted at Samuel Ward Academy on Friday (23) evening, with around 300,000 people tuning into the live broadcast.

Jonathan Dimbleby opened the show explaining how Haverhill was developed from an old market town to resettle ‘communities devastated by World War II’.

“It has obviously moved on since then, but it still has more than it’s fair share of social problems,” the presenter said.

“Somewhat isolated in the absence of a train station, it suffers from high rates of unemployment and poverty.”

However, by the time the show was broadcast again to 1.5 million listeners on Saturday lunchtime, the second offending sentence had been edited out of the show., following a request from the academy’s principal, Howard Lay.

The most recent figures show Haverhill’s unemployment rate is actually little more than two-thirds of the national average, and less than one per cent higher than the St Edmundsbury unemployment rate.

The BBC failed to confirm where it had sourced the information, when asked by the Echo.

A response said: “In drawing attention to the achievements of the school, Jonathan Dimbleby’s introduction somewhat overstated the economic challenges facing the town of Haverhill. It was pointed out to us immediately after the live broadcast and we took appropriate steps to ensure the Saturday repeat edition of Any Questions was amended accordingly.”

MP Matthew Hancock, who had earlier hosted the town’s first jobs fair, reacted saying: “I assumed they’d got the wrong town, as Haverhill is a town on the up, with falling unemployment below the national average. I’ve represented Haverhill for coming on three years and as long as I’ve known the town I’ve known it as vibrant, ambitious and going places. I noticed the BBC recognised their mistake and rectified it for the Saturday repeat, which apparently draws bigger audiences anyway.”

Samuel Ward Academy was praised as an outstanding Ofsted school in the show’s introduction.

Mr Lay, said: “The evening was spoiled by the introduction to Haverhill that appeared to describe the town as it was 20 years ago and not as it is now.

“I feel saddened and upset that the national media continues to portray Haverhill as a ‘new town’ in a difficult context when in reality it is a well established, dynamic and forward-thinking place.

“I am, however, really pleased that the BBC did accept editorial and research errors and corrected these.”

For all the latest news see todays’ (Thursday, December 6) Echo.

 

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