BBC accused of ‘cover-up’ after showing Boris Johnson footage from 2016 instead of Remembrance Sunday gaffe

Harry Cockburn
Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in 2016. The footage was broadcast in place of BBC footage from Sunday, during which the prime minister laid a wreath upside down at the monument: BBC/Screengrab

The BBC has been criticised after broadcasting archive footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath on Remembrance Sunday in 2016 instead of showing this year’s ceremony, during which the prime minister laid the flower arrangement upside down at the foot of the Cenotaph.

The corporation was accused of “covering up” Mr Johnson’s blunder when it broadcast the 2016 footage on BBC Breakfast on Monday morning in news coverage of Sunday’s commemorative event.

The mistake caused conspiracy theories to form among social media commentators, who suggested the swap was deliberate, and done to spare the prime minister’s blushes as the election approaches.

The BBC apologised, and insisted the old clip was broadcast purely by mistake.

In a statement, the programme said: “This morning on the programme we incorrectly used footage from a Remembrance Day service that was not filmed yesterday.

“This was a production mistake and we apologise for the error.”

The executive editor of BBC Breakfast, Richard Frediani, offered more detail.

He wrote on Twitter: “To explain the production error on @BBCBreakfast, the footage of Remembrance Sunday 2016 was among archive restored at 0403am on Sunday to preview the service. It was used in error today. Claims it was combined with 2019 footage this morning are wholly incorrect.”

Rob Burley, the editor of BBC’s live political programmes including The Andrew Marr Show, The Andrew Neil Show, and Politics Live, suggested “small errors” occur when a production team has been working through the night.

He tweeted: “Conspiracy theories flying about this. Truth is less exciting: a production error. My only insight from a year working on the show 10 years ago is that sometimes when a team has been up all night small errors can occur. It’s a gruelling job, an amazing team & they’ve apologised.”

But the excuse offered appeared not to convince everyone, especially critics who took to Twitter to claim the corporation acted to cast the prime minister in a better light. Scores accused the BBC of a “cover-up”.

Julie Barton wrote: “Having worked at the BBC for a number of years, I can assure you it’s difficult to make this ‘mistake’. Archive footage would be in a completely different place to footage from Sunday’s activities. Excuse doesn’t wash.”

And Mike Galsworthy, a pro-EU campaigner, wrote: “People are rightly angry over this.

“Given how controversial Johnson’s appearance was yesterday (and BBC showing live footage yesterday), it is highly unlikely that no-one in production noticed an error.”

Others said they were filing complaints to the BBC.

A spokesperson for the corporation reiterated its explanation and apology in its earlier statement when contacted by The Independent.