An episode of Panorama about the abuse of children at a scandal-hit G4S-run youth jail has been found to be in breach of one of Ofcom’s broadcasting rules, the media watchdog has said.
The investigative current affairs programme, which aired on January 11 2016 on BBC One, included secretly filmed footage that appeared to show the excessive use of force on young people at Medway Secure Training Centre (MSTC) in Rochester, Kent.
Robert Padmore, who managed to get a job at the centre, filmed undercover from October 2015 until December 2015 for the episode, which won a Bafta and led to a police investigation into the conduct of staff at the centre.
Four members of G4S staff were dismissed from MSTC after the programme aired, although a court case against them collapsed earlier this year.
The broadcasting regulator said a rule about “due care” involving people under the age of 18 was breached in the case of one young person included in the programme, which saw his real first name disclosed.
Although referred to by Panorama by the pseudonym Billy, the 14-year-old’s real name was audible on one occasion. His name was used in two other instances, although they were “almost inaudible”, Ofcom said.
His mother had also been interviewed for the programme, and her face had not been blurred, adding to concerns that he could be identifiable.
The BBC said the lapses happened in post-production because the episode aired earlier than intended, and that it was the “result of a genuine error which was only spotted as the programme was being transmitted”.
The episode was originally scheduled to air on January 18 2016, but was brought forward by one week because of security company G4S announcing that it had referred allegations of staff conduct for investigation.
Ofcom said that it acknowledged the “detailed steps and extensive efforts” taken by the show’s makers before and during production to ensure compliance with its rule around children under the age of 18.
However, it said that in the post-production stage, there were lapses in the BBC’s due care of Billy, and that although it acknowledges that “mistakes and oversights” can occur in the editing of programmes, “this failure by the BBC could have seriously compromised the care of Billy and was avoidable”.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We found that the BBC broke our rules by failing to meet its duty of care towards a vulnerable child in this episode.
“Clearly there was significant public interest in the programme’s exposure of the alleged mistreatment of young offenders, but the BBC had a responsibility to safeguard the privacy of all the young people involved.
“Some serious lapses in the production process meant this didn’t happen for one young person featured in the programme.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “We accept and regret that due to extreme time pressures, the programme team inadvertently broadcast the real first name of a minor in the initial transmission.
“Panorama took immediate steps to correct the programme on iPlayer and there have been no negative consequences as a result, with the boy’s mother saying that he has not been identified by those who did not already know him.
“We are pleased that Ofcom have acknowledged the clear and significant public interest in this investigation which exposed the mistreatment and bullying of young people and led to G4S losing the contract to run Medway Secure Training Centre as well as a serious case review.”
Another case, involving a 16-year-old boy named under the pseudonym Lee, was found not to be in breach of the same rule, Ofcom said.