The BBC Trust has been forced to make a second humiliating climb-down in a week after admitting claims that funds raised from Live Aid was used to buy weapons.
The BBC apologised to Band Aid over allegations stated or implied by its news programmes that money raised by the pop campaigners back in 1985 to help famine victims in Ethiopia was diverted to help anti-government groups in the country buy weapons.
A formal apology will now be aired across the BBC's media.
Last week the Beeb admitted that a prime time feature about the controversial Digital Economy Bill was also inaccurate.
The Band Aid allegations started eight months ago on BBC World Service programme 'Assignment', when a BBC Africa reporter claimed that both government aid and charitable monies that were sent to Ethiopia in the mid-eighties ended up in rebel-held areas of the Tigray province and were used to buy arms. Although that report didn't actually name Band Aid, other BBC News reports about the programme's investigation suggested funds raised by the Band Aid Christmas single and Live Aid concert were among those that went to rebel forces.
Band Aid co-founder Bob Geldof rejected the claims at the time, while The Band Aid Trust made an official complaint to the Beeb. And yesterday the BBC Editorial Complaints Trust admitted there was no evidence to suggest any Band Aid or Live Aid money went to buy weapons.
The Unit said in a statement:
"'Assignment' did not make the allegation that relief aid provided by Band Aid was diverted. However the BBC acknowledges that this impression could have been taken from the programme. We also acknowledge that some of our related reporting of the story reinforced this perception".
Responding to the Editorial Unit's findings and the Beeb's apology, Geldof told reporters yesterday:
"This was an unusual lapse in standards by the BBC. It was BBC reports from Ethiopia which prompted me to set up Band Aid in the first place. It made an important journalistic and humanitarian contribution to our whole project. But the BBC's misleading and unfair coverage on this story has done unknown damage to
ordinary people's willingness to donate their hard-earned cash to disaster funds".
"The public needs to be confident that money it donates in good faith gets to the people it's intended for. And the truth is that the money spent by Band Aid over the past 26 years has been subject to meticulous auditing and independent review.
So we welcome the BBC's apologies and hope they will begin to repair some of the appalling damage done. No one is saying that the BBC shouldn't make programmes scrutinising the efficacy of aid. It is fine for them to ask questions. But they have to give honest answers".
Mark Thomas presented the other offending programme on BBC2's 'The Culture Show' earlier this year when speeking at length about the three-strikes element as the Act was working its was through Parliament.
According to trade body UK Music, which submitted the official complaint about the piece, the ten minute item gave less than two minutes to those who supported the new laws, and over eight to those who opposed them.
Additional reporting by CMU Network