It was a clear illustration of the perils of investigative journalism. At 20.45 last night, a full fifteen minutes into the programme, the electronic programme guide still declared that last night's edition of Panorama would be dedicated to an investigation of Lord Ashcroft's financial affairs. The documentary had been heavily trailed. It was not what the BBC actually transmitted. Following some late fact checking a discrepancy in the evidence emerged and a late decision was taken to replace the advertised edition. This story from Media Guardian explains what happened. 

  

Comments

"Following some late fact checking a discrepancy in the evidence emerged  and a late decision was taken to replace the advertised edition." 

I would question the above interpretation of events - it seems to have been portrayed by other sources as a last minute submission of conflicting information leading to a decision to kill the programme, rather than due to a factual error that could have been easily corrected.

A BBC spokesperson said: "We put a number of questions to Lord Ashcroft two weeks ago, including one relating to a share interest transfer.We asked for a response by Friday 24th September. In a response received this afternoon we have been given information that sheds new light on that issue and we will therefore review the programme."

It seems rather odd that a reply was received so late, far past the feasible deadline for the contested section of the programme to be reviewed and rectified. It is worth noting that late submission of conflicting information on any programme seems far more likely to force a cancellation rather than contribute to factual accuracy, but implying this was intended would be unfounded speculation. As the contested information was genuinely inaccurate, Lord Ashcroft is of course entitled to object to it and reply to it on whatever timetable he sees fit, but this was not, in any case, a last minute fact checking discovery.

Panorama changes direction