Dear Mr Flyingfisherman,
Many thanks for your correspondence about the Countryfile programme broadcast on Sunday, November 21.
I am sorry that you felt the film was 'unbalanced.' The BBC takes complaints of this nature very seriously and vigorously defends its reputation for fair, balanced and accurate reporting.
There is no doubt that opinions on hunting are divided and when Countryfile covers the subject there are always comments from viewers who represent both sides of the argument. On this occasion I am in no doubt that the programme gave a balanced view of hunting - both for and against.
Near the head of the film John Craven talks to the residents of Rackenford who are at pains to point out that they could not understand what all the fuss was about when the media descended on their village. The strong inference being that the shooting of deer is a way of life in this part of the Devon countryside.
John Craven says in commentary:
'In the village pub, appropriately the Stag Inn, the locals just couldn’t believe the fuss over the shooting of a deer. Other locals were equally bemused.'
During his interview with the landlady of the Stag Inn, John Craven asks:
JC: 'It's quite a common occurrence around here isn't it shooting stags - I mean you've got a fine set of antlers here at the stag pub!'
Landlady: 'Yes we do - I mean this does seem like a storm in a tea cup……'
Later in the film John interviews hunter 'Andy' - a British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) member who organises trophy hunts and who is hired by landlowners to control the deer population.
'Andy' talks about how well the deer population is managed in the UK and that in other parts of Europe deer are taken when they are too young.'
John then asks Andy what checks are made on would-be trophy hunters.
JC: 'If I was a trophy hunter would to check to make sure I was a reasonable shot?'
Clearly demonstrating that there are strict controls surrounding the culling of deer, Andy responds:
'Oh absolutely - in fact whether you were culling or trophy hunting you will be taken to a range where you would show me that you can shoot correctly and accurately……the trophy side of things is a by-product. The animal has to be taken when we feel it has to be taken. If it's got a good set of antlers then that is just a bonus.'
John does not suggest there is anything wrong with this - though in the interest of balance there is an interview with a representative from the League Against Cruel Sports.
Even here, John says to the contributor:
'But what about the argument that there are too many deer - that they do need to be culled for their own good really….'
I can confirm that Countryfile were in touch the BASC who were very helpful during the course of our research. However, the 'stalker' they lined up for us did not want to be identified and did not want to be interviewed. The programme makers decided that this might imply that the stalker in question had something to hide - that some viewers may question his integrity. For this reason we decided to film with the contributor Andy who was happy to be visually identified and was prepared to be interviewed.
I do hope this explanation goes some way to addressing your concerns. We appreciate your interest in Countryfile and for taking the trouble to write and I can assure you that your comments have been registered.