BBC investigation finds anti-Islamic merchandise on sale at charity shop

09 Nov 2016 News

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A BBC Scotland investigation has found military charities selling anti-islamic products, and fundraisers lying to the public, but the timing of the programme was criticised by Poppyscotland, which is part of the British Legion.  

BBC Scotland Investigates: The Great Military Charity Scandal aired in Scotland last night and is available via the BBC’s on demand service, iPlayer. 

Undercover filming exposed a military charity shop, run by 1st Knight Military Charity, selling t-shirts with anti-islamic slogans on.  

BBC reporter, Sam Polling , said the system had “failed” after she had checked that 1st Knight Military Charity was registered with the Commission and seen the FRSB tick on its website. The charity has removed the products from its shop. 

During the programme Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the new Fundraising Regulator, described the behaviour as “unacceptable” and said: “We would not expect a professional fundraiser to engage in that sort of thing and would certainly be ready to investigate."

Fundraisers claiming to be volunteers

BBC Scotland also filmed professional fundraisers, who earned commission on selling raffle tickets for Support the Heroes, telling members of the public that they were volunteers and all the money goes to charity. 

The charity confirmed to the BBC that fundraisers were paid and that they should not have been saying otherwise.

IoF to consult on accreditation system

The Institute of Fundraising condemned the examples in last night’s programme but said they did not reflect the wider sector and announced that it would open a consultation on launching an accreditation system for professional fundraising organisations before the end of the year.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said: "Bad and fraudulent fundraising in no way represents the work of the vast majority of charity fundraisers and professional fundraising organisations raising money for vital causes.  

“While neither the charities nor companies featured in the BBC programme are members of the Institute of Fundraising, we are nonetheless concerned by any allegations of misleading or improper fundraising and it is right this is identified and stamped out.
“As the membership body for UK fundraising, the IoF constantly looks at new ways to boost professional standards. We must draw a line between the majority of great fundraisers in the UK, and rogue fundraisers who should have no place raising money for charitable causes.  

“As part of our work we will be consulting our members before Christmas on whether an accreditation system for professional fundraising organisations can support their work.”  

Poppyscotland criticises timing of the programme

Poppyscotland, which is part of the Royal British Legion and fundraises by selling commemorative poppies in Scotland in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday, was not featured in the programme itself but said that its timing could discourage people from donating to them. 

Mark Bibbey, chief executive, said: “While we wholeheartedly applaud the work of the investigation team in highlighting the shocking behaviour of these small, English-based organisations, we believe this programme should have been shown out of the Scottish Poppy Appeal period.

“We do not see how BBC Scotland can possibly consider the timing of this to be in the wider public interest. Despite not being mentioned or implicated in any way in the programme, the decision to broadcast it during a week when one military charity has a uniquely high-profile will lead many to wrongly assume that the Great Military Charity Scandal involves Poppyscotland.”

He added that the charity had told the BBC of  its concerns, but “ they were unwilling to consider moving the transmission date and did not appear to take seriously the potentially damaging effect the timing of the broadcast could have on our fundraising efforts. 

“Unfortunately those most likely to be damaged by this decision are the vulnerable veterans and Armed Forces families who rely on our support.”

The BBC said: "As PoppyScotland have indicated, our investigation into the veterans charity 1st Knight, and a number of other organisations, was in the public interest and one that we felt should be told sooner rather than later.

"The programme was very clear who these charities were and there was no link whatsoever made to PoppyScotland.  It also offered guidance to our audiences on how to donate with confidence to charities.

"As we do every year, the BBC will commemorate the remembrance activities this weekend and we don't believe the poppy appeal will in any way be affected by the activities of an entirely unrelated veterans' charity."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comment from the BBC 

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