The BBC has announced plans to air a Panorama investigation into charities, including its own broadcast event Comic Relief, in early December.
The documentary was postponed earlier in the year following interventions from the BBC’s director general and director of news. Director general Tony Hall reportedly intervened following claims a string of executives has ruled themselves out of taking decisions about the programme, due to the BBC’s longstanding ties with the Comic Relief charity.
The documentary is believed to look at how Comic Relief allegedly invested £150m of funds raised for up to eight years, before passing money onto other causes, with allegations that some of the money was invested in the likes of an arms company and tobacco firms.
The BBC has stated the programme is not just about Comic Relief and also investigates Save the Children and how it invests its money.
Reports in the Guardian claim that the programme has been reviewed by new executives at the corporation, including BBC news and current affairs director James Harding, who is understood to have asked producers to firm up the investigation before it airs.
In response to rumors that the broadcast had been delayed to avoid a clash with the BBC’s other annual charity event Children in Need, which aired on 15 November, the BB issued a statement that read: “BBC News and Current Affairs acts entirely independently of the wider BBC in commissioning and preparing programmes. It is simply wrong to suggest that the timing of the proposed Panorama investigation into the charity sector has in any way been influenced by the timing of Children in Need. The planned broadcast date of this investigation was delayed until we were satisfied that the programme met our robust editorial standards and we hope to schedule the programme to air in the near future.”
A separate statement from Comic Relief about the Panorama investigation stated: “Comic Relief takes the business of making grants and managing the money so generously donated by the public extremely seriously. We're satisfied that our approach is wholly appropriate and meets all regulatory and legal requirements. We have nothing to hide and publish a full explanation on our website.”
Sources close to one of the charities involved told the Guardian that it had received a letter from the production company behind the film, Matchlight, confirming the expected air date ad 10 December.