Probably like the tens of thousands of people that play in Leisure Leagues competitions both in the UK and internationally every week, we all view the BBC to be a great British institution and a bastion of impartiality. Over recent weeks we have seen first-hand evidence that has led us to question this widespread belief.
Leisure Leagues has hundreds of franchise leagues running successfully up and down the UK providing Leisure Leagues franchisees with their own business and, in many cases, a lifestyle and income that many of them thought impossible to achieve before they took on one of our franchises. However, as with any large business there will always be the odd disgruntled person. In a recent satisfaction survey 98% of all Leisure Leagues franchisees reported they were either “extremely happy”, “happy” or “satisfied” with their Leisure Leagues franchise.
In November 2016 two BBC journalists from Wales, Gemma Ryall and Sam Ryall contacted us to say that they were going to do a documentary piece for the BBC Wales watchdog programme based on the comments of one franchisee who was in that 2% tiny minority who considered themselves “not happy” with a Leisure Leagues franchise. At first, we thought this was fine. We believed that the BBC would act impartially and represent us fairly, particularly when we showed them our statistics that 98% of all our franchisees were happy or satisfied and believed that what we had provided to them was beneficial to their incomes and lifestyle. We soon found out however, that by the time the BBC had contacted us they had already made up their minds, acted as judge and jury, and decided exactly what they were going to broadcast.
The main claim was that us, as the Franchisor, hadn’t provided this particular franchisee with what he had expected. So we set about providing the BBC with all the evidence which showed that not only we had provided this particular franchisee with everything, but had actually given him more than was claimed, and we also provided evidence that it was the franchisee’s own systematic failures which had caused him to prevent a grievance. Crucially, we also provided substantial evidence to show that this particular franchisee had an ulterior motive – that being simply to try and escape the Contract and avoid paying any future fees to us, as he knew that he was wrong in law, wrong in fact, wrong in evidence and didn’t have a leg to stand on, in short. So, trying to put pressure on us via the BBC was his only option. And the BBC were willing accomplices. They needed a story. The truth simply wasn’t a good story for the BBC.
The BBC refused to show us the evidence that they had from this disgruntled franchisee, yet insisted that we show them all our evidence which was in fact part of the judicial process. The BBC were clear: They were going to decide this issue, consider who was right (based on the best story they could present to the viewer) and be jury, executioner and then after the event simply go on to the next story and forget all about it.
As time went on we realised that the BBC seemed uninterested in the evidence and the facts but only interested in presenting a picture of events that was distorted, untruthful and had no relevance in factual accuracy. So we telephoned the BBC directly and spoke to one of the journalists involved, Sam Ryall.
This conversation with Sam Ryall was informative, to say the least. In short he said that the evidence we had presented was inconvenient as they had “already invested a lot of money into the project and the story and set a filming date”. Whilst the evidence we had did indeed show that we were right and the disgruntled franchisee, and hence the story they were going to broadcast, was totally inaccurate and wrong, this was highly inconvenient as ‘the story must come first’ regardless of whether or not it was accurate. In short, it was a much better story to say that an individual had been aggrieved by a large company rather than present the facts which portrayed an entirely different picture and showed the company to be in the right and the individual to be in the wrong. This is not how BBC Wales watchdog works he said and, to put it bluntly, there was nothing Leisure Leagues could do about it. Astonishing.
Our lawyers wrote to the BBC stating that they were about to broadcast something that was completed misrepresentation of the facts and that if they did so then they could be liable for litigation. We spoke to Mr Ryall again. He wasn’t interested in litigation. He had the weight of the BBC behind him and as far as he was concerned the story was more important than the actual facts presented. It may not be a true story, but it was a good story and essentially the viewer is not to know what is fiction and what is fact, as long as they are titillated by an interesting piece that they can broadcast. And anyway, the BBC wouldn’t bother responding to any complaints against them so we shouldn’t bother.
Finally, we asked the BBC whether or not we could have a right of reply ourselves if they were indeed going to broadcast a piece. They refused. It wouldn’t be good if we contradicted the story that they wanted to present, or put a completely different view on it. Nor would it be good if the viewer saw the facts which disproved the whole story. This would be a waste of the production teams time, effort and filming time and costs. No, we couldn’t out our viewpoint across because this wouldn’t be interesting enough to the viewer.
Finally, our solicitors wrote to them again and informed them that by broadcasting the piece they would certainly be prejudicing any potential future court process but, as you probably guessed by now, the BBC didn’t bother answering, and weren’t bothered.
This fictional story was broadcast and, yes, you guessed it, soon after the broadcast the disgruntled franchisee contacted us and told us that the Contract we had with him was now irrelevant and even though he had broken it we couldn’t do anything because if we did then the BBC would simply do another story on us as he was now good friends with the production team for the programme.
So, there we have it. Now we know how the BBC works. Crooked journalism. A complaints system which is in practice non-existent. And a journalistic ethos within the BBC which is only interested in titillating the viewer rather than presenting the facts accurately. If this was North Korea’s state media we would expect it – but the BBC? And how are we to believe anything the BBC tells us anymore when we know this is how they procure stories and present them? If the facts mean so little to the BBC, and it is only the story that matters, then what hope for the information we receive?
It’s time for the tax payer to stop funding this kind of nonsense and for the public to stop funding these unelected journalist judges where only the story matters.Back to Blog