BBC falls for 'expert' cabbie's banter
The driver was interviewed on TV after being mistaken for a specialist on music downloading
IT WAS not until midway through the live television interview that the BBC interviewer started to grow suspicious. The man whom she believed to be an expert on internet music downloads seemed to know precious little about his subject.
Not only that, but the stocky black man with the strong French accent bore little resemblance to the picture on the expert’s website, which showed a slim white man with blue eyes and blond hair.
The corporation’s News 24 channel apologised to its viewers yesterday and admitted that its interviewee was not Guy Kewney, the respected editor of Newswireless.net, but a local taxi driver.
The cabbie, who is better qualified to talk about traffic jams in Shepherds Bush, answered questions for several minutes on Apple Computer’s victory at the High Court against Apple Corps, the record label for the Beatles, The Times has learnt.
Karen Bowerman, the BBC’s consumer affairs correspondent, asked the driver what the implications were for Apple Computer, which is allowed to continue using its name and symbol for its iTunes music download service. He gave a rambling answer about how people would be able to download songs at internet cafés.
Ms Bowerman was nonplussed, but persisted. What about Apple? “I don’t know,” the driver replied. “I’m not at all sure what I’m doing here.”
It later emerged that the driver had been waiting for a client at the BBC Television Centre in West London, when a studio manager mistook him for the expert.
Confused but co-operative, he agreed to follow the manager to a studio, where he was promptly fitted with a microphone and placed in front of a camera.
Mr Kewney, meanwhile, was still waiting in reception when he saw the taxi driver being introduced under his name. “Anybody would have been fascinated to see me introduced live on air, as the expert witness in the studio,” he wrote on his weblog. “Me? Not fascinated; astonished! What would you feel, if, while you were sitting in that rather chilly reception area, you suddenly saw yourself — not sitting in reception, but live, on TV?”
He added that it was especially surprising because the man, who spoke with a French accent, looked nothing like him. “I’m not black. I’m not-black on a startling scale; I’m fair-haired, blue-eyed, prominent-nosed, and with the sort of pale skin that makes my dermatologist wince each time I complain about an itchy mole.”
He was amused at first, but realised that anyone watching would think he knew next to nothing about Apple Computer, online music or The Beatles.
When the driver was asked how the interview went, he replied: “Well, it was OK, but I was a bit rushed.”
He had been waiting at reception when the studio manager arrived to ask for Mr Kewney. The driver, whose visitor’s badge was marked with Mr Kewney’s name, raised his hand. According to Mr Kewney, the stage manager said: “To be honest, I did think it couldn’t be you. I mean, I’ve seen your picture on your website, and he didn’t look like you. So I asked him who he was, and he said, ‘Guy Kewney’ and I said, ‘Are you really Guy Kewney?’ and he said, ‘Yes’.”
The driver’s sang-froid slipped only when Ms Bowerman introduced him. In a video clip, which BBC staff can access through the corporation’s Jupiter cuttings system, a moment of realisation flashes across the man’s face. “Unfortunately we did make a mistake and the wrong guest was briefly interviewed on air before we cut to our reporter,” a spokeswoman said. “We apologise to viewers for any confusion.”
It is not the first time that the BBC has been embarrassed by a case of mistaken identity. Last year Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of Wales, was mistaken for a cast member of Doctor Who when he was due to appear on the BBC Wales political show Dragon’s Eye.
Source: Times Online