PARIS — French news channel BFM TV has launched an investigation over content broadcast without proper editorial checks leading to suspicion of intentional meddling by an external entity, POLITICO has learned from multiple internal officials.
Video clips and comments that weren’t submitted through the usual validation channels were broadcast during a night news program, according to a dozen internal officials aware of the probe that POLITICO talked to.
The channel’s management suspects this was the result of external intervention, the origin of which remains unclear.
Hearings have taken place with colleagues of host Rachid M’Barki, who has not appeared on the air since mid-January.
“An internal investigation was opened two weeks ago following information received concerning a journalist of our channel,” said a representative for Altice Media, the media group that owns BFM TV. “This journalist has been on leave since the beginning of this investigation and for the duration of this investigation. BFM is probably a victim in this case and we cannot tolerate any suspicion on the work of our entire editorial staff and our 300 journalists.”
Contacted by POLITICO, M’Barki said that he “used information that [he] received from sources” and that “they did not necessarily follow the usual editorial process.”
The journalist denied any intentional misconduct. “They were all real and verified. I do my job … I’m not ruling anything out, maybe I was tricked, I didn’t feel like I was or that I was participating in an operation of I don’t know what or I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
The channel’s Director General Marc-Olivier Fogiel told some newsroom representatives in mid-January, before making the internal audit more widely known within the newsroom, where it is the subject of intense speculation including over possible involvement of foreign states.
The news comes as the Qatargate scandal rocks the European Parliament and raises questions about possible further ramifications in European capitals.
“I got very few details, just that there was an investigation under way, a possible interference of a foreign state and content has been broadcast that should not have been,” said a member of the society of journalists, the body that represents the newsroom.
The Altice Group executive declined to comment on possible foreign interference but said the media group is ready to take “all measures both legal, judicial, individual and organizational if necessary, depending on the results of this investigation.”