BBC to air new documentary criticising fundraising charities

05 Oct 2017 News

BBC Radio 4 is set to broadcast a new investigative piece about charity fundraising practices, which follows 90-year-old Barbara Smith as she looks into the sector’s swapping and sharing of her data.

BBC Radio 4 has called the documentary Selling Barbara, which will air tomorrow from 11am. It follows 90-year-old Barbara Smith and BBC producer Lydia Thomas as they investigated how and why charities swap and share personal data of supporters, as well as why they used to buy and sell them in the past.

In the programme, Smith interviews a number of people from the sector, including Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam, Lord Michael Grade, chair of the Fundraising Regulator and Paula Sussex, the then chief executive of the Charity Commission.

The piece also names a number of charities which have shared or swapped Smith’s personal data, including the British Red Cross, Marie Curie and Smile Train. A number of other charities, including the Cancer Recovery Foundation are named as having sent Smith direct mailings without her ever having been in contact.

At a number of points through the investigative piece, Smith recalls feeling “pressured” or “pressurised” to give to charity, both through the large volumes of mail she has received, but also from charity representatives on the phone.

The BBC said: “90-year-old Barbara Smith loves donating to good causes, but has discovered some of the UK’s biggest charities have bought and sold her name and address. It’s meant she’s been inundated with letters from charities she’s never heard from.

“In this programme Barbara, with the help of her producer, Lydia Thomas, investigates which charities have traded in her personal details, uncovering a web of buying and selling, and asks the charities why they did it.”


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