BBC exaggerates driving test identity
The BBC ran a headline story (BBC1 10 O'Clock News, BBC
News Online, 23/6/07) claiming massive levels of identity
fraud in the driving test system. We queried this with
the Driving Standards Agency and found that the BBC
were reporting flimsy speculation as fact. The BBC corrected
their website after we pointed this out but the damage
had already been done by BBC1's misleading broadcast.
Here's our correspondence with the BBC:
Dear Steve [Steve Herrmann, Editor,
BBC News Online],
The BBC News page covering driving test
identity fraud opens with:
"Tens of thousands of people are
paying fraudsters to sit their driving test for them..."
There seems to be no factual basis for
this figure. It appears to be a speculative guess by a Driving
Standards Agency (DSA) spokesperson. You quote Andy
Rice of the DSA fraud team as saying: "We're into the
tens of thousands." In the Independent on Sunday
(24/6/07), however, Rice is quoted as claiming "There
are potentially tens of thousands...". Only "potentially".
We've seen no evidence presented by the
DSA to support this figure. It appears to be plucked out
of the air, yet the BBC has reported it as fact.
[From Media Hell sent 24/6/07]
We received the following reply, from Pat Heery (UK Editor,
BBC News Interactive), 25/6/07:
Thank you for your e-mail of 24 June
about our story on the driving test scam. I have spoken
to Andy Rice of the Driving Standards Agency for further
clarification and have amended our story in the light of
this to say "could potentially be in the tens of thousands
figure." Thank you again for your e-mail.
The Driving Standards Agency deserves some blame,
as they introduced the "potentially tens of thousands"
remark based on a feeble premise. [When we originally queried
the figure with them, their Press Officer, Pamela Matthews,
replied as follows (25/6/07)]:
Thanks you for your enquiry.
We have had over 1100 investigations
since 2004 - these are from figures that we keep. We have
had cases where individuals have done 250 tests, so potentially
there could be tens of thousands (simple maths). Unfortunately,
in the coverage the key word - potentially - was
An "investigation" doesn't necessarily imply a
crime. If it did, Britain's prisons would be overflowing with
convicted terrorists. And we're not impressed with the "simple
maths" that led to a misleading news story being transmitted
into the heads of millions of BBC1 viewers.