Decision on “Horrible Histories” Complaint

Nighitngale Society press release, 30 September 2014

“Materially Inaccurate”

Judgment is on pp52-63 of the June-July report (pdf)

Successful complainant Professor Lynn McDonald welcomed the decision by the BBC Trustees on the BBC’s false accusations against Florence Nightingale–of racism no less–in its Horrible Histories series on Nightingale and Mary Seacole.

The 16-page judgment found that the depiction of Nightingale with regard to racial issues “was materially inaccurate.” It agreed that the accusation of her rejecting Seacole four times was a serious allegation, and also “materially inaccurate,” as the evidence was clear that she did not reject her once.

Horrible Histories, however, is not the only horror in the BBC’s coverage of Nightingale and Seacole (see the list below).

The BBC has a lot to make up for. It should begin by acknowledging all its faulty programmes and websites, retracting where possible, and re-labeling those too late to retract. Said McDonald, “a documentary should tell the story as it is, or be labelled as fiction. Comedy is fine, but accusations of racism are not funny, and inexcusable when false.”

She noted that the complaint was first submitted in May 2013, and the BBC fought it all the way. This material is used in U.K. schools, and thus contributes to “Lessons in Lies” (see Lynn McDonald, Daily Mail 1 August 2014).