Considering that NRK Brennpunkt will be portraying our faith community, BCC wishes to facilitate for all claims in the program to be thoroughly investigated. However, NRK has declined to ask BCC’s members what they think.
By Anne Lea Nielsen / Photo: BCC
It is not unimportant which methods the media uses when attempting to uncover issues with significant social implications. A documentary is made with a popular form of research, within the category of entertainment. Within research, there are strict requirements regarding methodology, bias, and survey reliability. But it is a small minority of the population who read the research themselves.
The documentary as a genre has the task of achieving what research does: to find gaps in available knowledge. Its form is more palatable for most people, and it is angled in a certain direction so that the target group must take a position on what is being presented.
It is our members who represent BCC
It is our members who represent BCC. Without satisfied members, there would not be a positive church experience. Therefore, it is the members who set the development pace in BCC and provide input on how to improve as an organization. At BCC, we care about our members’ well-being and listen to their feedback.
Since NRK Brennpunkt is going to describe life in BCC, we believe it important for our members to be included and that their opinions are heard on the program. If only a small handful of members are given the chance, we are worried that the sentiments of the broader majority in BCC will be marginalized in NRK’s final product.
In February, following a proposal from BCC, NRK Brennpunkt agreed to write questions and pose them to adult members in an anonymous survey during BCC’s Easter conference. BCC was willing to give NRK a complete overview of its methodology and results and wanted to use a system that guaranteed anonymity. But then, without giving any reasons, NRK withdrew from the agreement. In June, BCC was informed that NRK instead only wanted to use an old member survey published earlier. We cannot in any way see this as fair.
Our wish was for members to be asked the same questions NRK Brennpunkt asked their other sources, and which they raised in the program. If NRK Brennpunkt was really interested in knowing about life in BCC, we cannot understand why they would withdraw from such an agreement.
February: NRK asks BCC to facilitate a member survey
“…We agree it’s a good idea to ask questions directly to a selection of BCC members and think a good opportunity for this could be during the Easter Conference at Brunstad this April. We ask that you make this possible.” … (E-mail from NRK Brennpunkt, 27th February 2020)
June: NRK changes course, believes they have sufficient answers
“…We would also like to point out that we have not withdrawn from the ‘planned surveys.’ We have not had any ‘clear agreement’ on this. You have presented a request that you, on behalf of us, conduct a survey of BCC’s members. We have requested and gained access to a membership survey that you have already done- and that provides adequate answers to relevant questions for our program.” … (E-mail from NRK Brennpunkt, 19th June 2020)
BCC surveys members itself
Since NRK Brennpunkt did not wish to survey members, BCC chose to send the questions on how members feel in the faith community directly to them, before a simultaneous rejoinder in the fall.
The questions are not crafted with the intention of being methodologically correct for this type of survey. They are formulated by NRK and are the same questions BCC received from NRK Brennpunkt. The point of sending the survey was that instead of someone in management answering questions about how members view different questions, the members could just as well do it themselves.
The result is a survey in which NRK’s unvarnished allegations are answered, and it shows a striking consensus among BCC’s members. BCC interprets the unified answers as an expression of frustration that these repeated claims are so far removed from the experience what it is really like to be a member of BCC.
In addition to BCC highlighting the shortcomings of the program’s creators choosing to ignore what the majority of members think, NRK has been repeatedly warned about ethical issues related to their use of sources referred to as key players in Psy-Group’s material.
Allegations from Psy-Group documents are recirculated
The reality is that people behind a paid influence operation can set the agenda in Norwegian society, whenthe incorrect allegations made in Psy-Group’s documents are being disseminated via editorial media. Exactly as stated in their methods.
NRK Brennpunkt wanted to interview Berit Hustad Nilsen, who is Chairwoman of the Board in BCC. Hustad Nilsen herself experienced serious threats and set a clear premise that NRK Brennpunkt had to provide confirmation on how they had addressed ethical and security issues related to their sources’ connection with Psy-Group’s influence operation. NRK chose to ignore this.
Not wanting to consider that sources being used are part of an influence operation poses a threat to truthful journalism. Likewise, not showing an interest in what most members think means that our confidence in NRK’s process in the making of this documentary is greatly weakened.
Furthermore, we find it shocking that NRK Brennpunkt, already in the beginning of this process, inform Jonathan van der Linden that they will now put the spotlight on a closed religious community on the outside of Norwegian society and culture.
We do not believe that having such an attitude when portraying a religious community helps fill in the gaps of people’s knowledge about the said community. Those who know BCC know who we are and what we stand for. So, we hope NRK’s process in this case will be raised for debate, especially when thinking of the mission NRK has as a public service broadcaster for the entire Norwegian population, and the trust they are dependent on maintaining in the future.