If you watched Channel 4 News on the evening of Monday 21 September 2020, you may have been outraged by coverage of the apparent killing in May of a goshawk on a grousemoor in North Yorkshire. If not, you can watch the video embedded below. If you feel like complaining about it, there are details about that at the bottom of this page.
The network’s chief correspondent Alex Thomson showed anti-shooting bias and may be guilty of contempt of court. The aim of his piece was to smear the image of grousemoor managers and the shooting community.
Shooting Times journalist Matt Cross is shocked one of Channel 4 News’ most senior reporters breaks core rules and says media companies should be reported when producing such shoddy and misleading output.
“If you don’t complain about what you saw on Channel 4 News… then expect the same thing to be done to you in two or three years’ time by Channel 4, ITV, BBC, Sky News, whoever it’s going to be. People should be on Ofcom and Channel 4, on their websites complaining.”
Thomson pins his case on months’-old hidden camera video released by anti-hunting group Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors. It shows a gamekeeper putting jackdaws in a trap, then later returning when a goshawk is trapped inside.
The antis claim the video shows the keeper kills the goshawk with a stick, stuffs it in a bag then leaves, dumping the dead jackdaws in a stream nearby.
None of that is evidence of a crime. The trap is legal and it is more likely the keeper was despatching the jackdaws. There’s also no goshawk carcase to prove it was killed.
Police are investigating the case, which has not yet come to court
Instead of presenting a balanced picture of what we know, Thompson sides with the antis, trying to prove their case.
“To watch a journalist of Alex Thomson’s seniority and experience unnecessarily ‘door-stepping’ people who are just going about their lawful business, that is not journalism, that’s harassment,” says Cross. “What he’s doing in effect is linking them with criminality, entirely unjustifiably.”
“Door-stepping is a thing journalists can do under certain circumstances, for people that they can’t interview other ways where they need to interview that person… but not under that situation. They’re saying ‘We want to hear the response of the shooting community’. Well ask BASC, ask the Countryside Alliance. You don’t need to door-step random people going about their legal activities.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, Thomson commits a major reporting no-no.
“On national TV, [Thomson is seen] telling people someone has committed a crime when someone hasn’t even been to court. It’s basic bad journalism,” says Cross.
What can you do?
Complaining about news bias is essential in this age of social media, where accusations are often flung in all directions with little or no proof and the targets found guilty until they prove themselves innocent – by which time it’s often too late.
If you object to Alex Thomson’s biased report and the questionable editorial decision-making that allowed it to be run, it’s easier than you think. It takes five minutes to fill in the forms on the Ofcom and Channel 4 websites.
The programme details: Channel 4 News, 7pm, 21/09/2020