Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Friday, 5 October 2007 18:00 UK

How the Queen clip drama unfolded

A misleading trailer for a documentary about the Queen has led to the resignation of BBC One controller Peter Fincham.

An executive at TV production company RDF Media has also quit as a result. So how did the story unfold?


The Queen in TV documentary
A Year With The Queen was due to be shown this autumn

TV production company RDF Media makes a behind-the-scenes film about the monarchy, A Year With The Queen, for BBC One.

They put together a short trailer to show to investors at an industry festival in Cannes in April 2007.

RDF's chief creative officer, Stephen Lambert, decides to change the order of shots of the Queen being photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

RDF says it makes "more sense" that way. It later concedes that was an error of judgement.

The company later tells the BBC the sequence was changed to make it more exciting - but withdraws this explanation and says "taster" material is often used out of chronological order.


Red Bee Media, a company employed by the BBC, asks RDF for material from the Queen documentary to use in a launch tape for the BBC One autumn schedule.

The offending footage is sent and RDF asks on several occasions to see the resulting launch tape, but Red Bee refuses.

On 3 May, an RDF executive producer meets an BBC executive producer. The BBC executive producer sends an e-mail to Mr Fincham saying: "I think they have some AMAZING stuff...

"Sequences in the can include HMQ provoked into a huge fit of pique by photographer Annie Leibovitz and storming out of room..."

Mr Fincham responds: "That sounds really quite exciting."

Mr Fincham and BBC One's head of communications view the launch tape three times before signing it off and no-one questions what the sequence appears to show.


Former BBC One boss Peter Fincham
Mr Fincham said the clip showed the Queen "losing it a bit"

At the media launch in London at 10am on 11 July, the clip from A Year With The Queen is screened.

Mr Fincham tells journalists it shows the monarch "losing it a bit and walking out in a huff".

That afternoon, an RDF executive producer tells the series publicist he thinks there has been "a mistake in the editing of the launch tape". Soon afterwards, a journalist from The Sun calls to ask about "the Queen walking out".

Mr Fincham knows by 7pm that evening that the clips were wrong. He has conversations with RDF and Buckingham Palace, and at 9:44pm, they agree a statement to say the Queen did not walk out.

But they agree to hold the statement until the next morning so they can "check the temperature of the story".


National newspapers and other media, including the BBC News website, go big on the story the following day, describing what appears to be the Queen storming off.

But shortly before noon, the BBC releases the statement that was agreed the previous day, adding an apology to the Queen and Annie Leibovitz.

The story keeps running - but now becomes a story about the BBC's mistake.

In the evening, in a joint statement with RDF, the BBC says the film was edited out of sequence and supplied to the BBC in error.

The statement says Mr Fincham used the sequence "in good faith" and had no knowledge that an error had been made.


On 13 July, Mr Fincham says he is not planning to resign over the blunder. Showing the footage was a regrettable "human error", he adds.

"It is a mistake that was made for which, as director of the channel, I take responsibility," he says.

But he adds that he has been sent a message of support by the BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson.

On 16 July, RDF Media admits it was "guilty of a serious error of judgement".


RDF's Stephen Lambert
RDF's Stephen Lambert admitted being "cavalier"

On 5 October, a report into the distorted footage is published by former BBC executive Will Wyatt.

He says the incident reveals "misjudgements, poor practice and ineffective systems as well, of course, as the usual helping of bad luck that often accompanies such sorry affairs". Mr Fincham resigns.

Mr Thompson describes him as an "outstanding controller" but says Mr Fincham's "decision to take responsibility demonstrates the integrity and conviction which has characterised your leadership of BBC One".

The chief creative officer of RDF Media, Stephen Lambert, also resigns.

He says in a statement: "My action, which I accept in the words of the inquiry was 'cavalier', was the first step in a chain of carelessness and misunderstandings which had very serious consequences."

RDF later withdraws that part of his statement.

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