03/17/2014 09:04 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2014

BBC Will Apologize For Using Students As Cover To Film In North Korea


The BBC is admitting that it was wrong when it joined a university trip to North Korea to film a secret documentary without adequately informing the students.

Journalist John Sweeney and his wife were embedded in a group of students from the London School of Economics who traveled to Pyongyang. They used the students' trip as a cover for filming "Panorama: North Korea Undercover." Some of the students said that they were not aware that the journalists would be filming a documentary until they were already on the trip.

The Guardian reported Monday that the BBC Trust, which governs the network, found that the network deviated from its editorial guidelines.

"The BBC failed to consider a number of important issues and risks, and failed to deal with them appropriately," the trust wrote. "In particular, the provision of information to the students who took part in the trip was insufficient and inadequate, and meant the daughter of the complainant did not possess the knowledge necessary to give informed consent."

The university and the father of one of the students complained after the trip last year, saying that the students were informed that there would be "a journalist" accompanying them, but did not know about the BBC's plans to film. Alex Peters-Day, general secretary of the LSE’s student union, had criticized the BBC for using the students as "human shields."

North Korea is notoriously closed off to outsiders and journalists. The AP has a bureau in Pyongyang, but still struggles with heavy restrictions on the press, while two American journalists were captured after crossing onto North Korean soil and detained there for several months in 2009.