An Open Letter to BBC Complaints

Those of you that saw the BBC One show “Watchdog” yesterday will have seen the report on the PlayStation 3’s “Yellow Light of Death” issues. I watched it twice and was inspired, for the first time in my life, to write a complaint letter to a media outlet. This is that letter, published here but also on it’s way this morning (via proper post, if the postal service isn’t on strike again) to the BBC complaints department in Glasgow. If you were annoyed by the report for any sensible reason then I strongly urge you to do the same. The Television Licence Fee which funds the BBC now costs £147.50 per year which isn’t cheap in these hard times. What follows is the full transcript of my complaint letter and is obviously my personal opinion rather than the official stance of TheSixthAxis.

To Whom It May Concern,


I wish to address the most recent episode of the BBC’s consumer affairs programme Watchdog (original broadcast date of 17 Sept 2009). In the episode there was a report concerning the Sony PlayStation 3 and the recent issues which have been widely reported by consumers concerning the “Yellow Light of Death” (YLoD).

I work as a blogging Editor within the gaming industry for a website which prides itself on accuracy and fairness. We report on the issues affecting gamers in the UK and Europe and have seen numerous reports of the so called YLoD. I believe that the problem is becoming widespread (chiefly, I believe, among launch consoles) and serious enough to warrant further investigation.

The news that Watchdog would be featuring such an investigation was welcome and I looked forward to the broadcast. I even read the published six-page letter that Sony Computer Entertainment UK (SCEUK) sent to the program to register their dissatisfaction at the way Watchdog had been handling the issue. This was, I believed, a big issue and it would be interesting to see how the BBC (a source I have always had the utmost respect for) would deal with it. Finally, I thought, a unifying voice that will be loud enough to demand action, or at least dialogue, from Sony.

So it was with a rapidly growing sense of disappointment that I watched the report. I am not a current affairs editor or producer with the BBC and I’m sure that our collective license fees pay far more experienced people to make these decisions so I am willing to admit that I may be wrong with my next sentiment. It’s just that I think starting a report by stating that the comedian you have hired may be biased as he works for the main competitor of the product might taint your report’s attempt to appear unbiased. Surely it would have been more appropriate to hire a reporter who might have had, at the very least, the appearance of an unbiased viewpoint?

In the interests of expediency I would like to avoid a detailed breakdown of all the errors in your report (although, if required, I will provide those at a later date) and instead discuss the generalities of the way you failed the consumers you proclaim to champion.

Firstly, you didn’t actually address what the problem was. There was no indication of why the problem occurred, no discussion of which models it was being reported for and no information regarding possible preventative measures. These are all things which would be invaluable to the consumers.

Secondly, you failed to mention that your “free” fix wasn’t actually free. Even if those engineers carried out your kerbside repairs without invoicing the BBC (which I sincerely doubt) they do not carry the repairs out for free to the general public. Most of those independent engineers will charge almost as much as Sony for repairs and the Sony repair comes with a short (but nevertheless useful) warranty period. This warranty period would be especially useful since, as you briefly mentioned in the report, the kerbside repairs carried out by Watchdog had a shocking failure rate themselves.

I’m sure your consumer group are glad they didn’t pay for the fleeting repairs and perhaps a little annoyed that the integrity of their system has been compromised by a third party meaning that any future (and once again necessary) repairs carried out by Sony will, most likely, now be un-guaranteed and more expensive.

So, to conclude, you screened a report with very little factual information, partially fronted by a comedian/presenter with a proclaimed (and seemingly jovially celebrated) bias against the product. You spent (I presume but would love to be corrected) licence-payer’s money on badly carried out repairs to assist in your almost comedic take on a problem which I believe deserved more respect. You then skimmed over a six-page letter from SCEUK, summarising their lengthy (and apparently warranted) misgivings about the way you were handling the issue, in a few smirking sentences.

It seems to me that the only responsible and valuable thing to come out of the report was the brief request for more people to come forward if they experience the problem. Perhaps if you had made this request before recording the laughable report you would have had a weight of evidence to confront Sony with instead of a comedy stunt outside their offices. Perhaps if you had hired an extra researcher or two to investigate the issues instead of a presenter with an admitted bias to mock it you would have been able to get someone from Sony on the show to answer the complaints of the consumers.

I feel that you have failed at every turn with this issue and the way our licence fees were used to fund it. I wish to register my immense dissatisfaction with the team involved and the BBC itself for broadcasting such a pathetic attempt at consumer affairs journalism.

As if the poorly conceived, badly executed and embarrassingly vague report wasn’t bad enough you then closed out the report with an awful comedy song. I’m a fan of gaming and a fan of Johnny Cash so my opinion may lose some objectivity here but it pains me to think that public money is paying for that am-dram drivel.


Peter Chapman