BBC News revisionism

I'm getting a bit fed up with the way BBC News online revise their stories without indication.

They put up an article that is clearly PR pap and nonsense (the Guardian was taken in too), and Ben Hammersley and The Register rightly take them to task. Rather than add an addendum to the article, a correction or clarification, they simply rewrite the article to say something totally different, making both those critiques I link to above seem to be talking nonsense, as there’s no way of telling they were referring to an earlier version of the article. The “Last Updated” date is no use, given we have no clue as to when it actually appeared on the site, or how long it’s been since it changed.

Given the fact articles are linked from many places – they’ve just started asking people to social bookmark at the bottom of every article! – I believe it’s vital that the BBC (and everyone else) is transparent about what they do and change. How hard would it be to store old revisions of an article and allow people to view them? It would certainly be more honest.

Anyway, here’s a diff showing exactly what the BBC changed on this article, for posterity.

Previous revision Current revision
Line 1: Line 1:
-'Flying saucer' nears US take-off +Flying saucer 'nears US take-off'
-by David Willis +
-BBC News, Davis, California +
Getting to work could take on a whole new dimension Getting to work could take on a whole new dimension
- 
-> WATCH Flying car showroom  
Line 17: Line 13:
Company representatives say it is easy to operate, with plenty of leg room and space for a passenger. Company representatives say it is easy to operate, with plenty of leg room and space for a passenger.
-"Highway in the sky" +But customers may still have a while to wait.
-Capable of vertical take-off and landing, the craft hovers like a helicopter up to 10ft off the ground. Any higher and the driver would need a pilot's license.+So far, the flying car's inventor has been hard at work for more than four decades - and despite frequent assurances that success is just around the corner, the vehicle has yet to get anywhere near the mass market.
-"Cars are finished as a means of getting around. It's only a matter of time" - Dr Paul Moller+"Highway in the sky"
 + 
 +Capable of vertical take-off and landing, the craft - so far a one-off prototype - hovers like a helicopter up to 10ft off the ground. Any higher and the driver would need a pilot's licence.
It is the brainchild of Dr Paul Moller, an aeronautics engineer who envisions a "highway in the sky" which he believes could cut conventional commuter traffic in half. It is the brainchild of Dr Paul Moller, an aeronautics engineer who envisions a "highway in the sky" which he believes could cut conventional commuter traffic in half.
Line 31: Line 29:
The flying saucer is powered by eight engines which can run on petrol, diesel or even ethanol. The flying saucer is powered by eight engines which can run on petrol, diesel or even ethanol.
-Dr Moller and his team have already conducted more than 200 test flights and say the flying saucer could prove useful to rescue teams as well as landowners. +Dr Moller and his team say they have already conducted more than 200 test flights and say the flying saucer could prove useful to rescue teams as well as landowners.
Faster versions Faster versions
- 
-It will sell for about $90,000 (44,700) and the only question now surrounds licensing arrangements.  
Moller International has yet to establish which US agency - the Federal Aviation Administration or the Department of Transport - will authorise its use. Moller International has yet to establish which US agency - the Federal Aviation Administration or the Department of Transport - will authorise its use.
Line 41: Line 37:
It sees the flying saucer as a precursor to the M400 - otherwise known as the "Skycar" - which looks a bit like the Batmobile, also boasts vertical take-off and landing, and can be driven on the road as well as flown through the sky. It sees the flying saucer as a precursor to the M400 - otherwise known as the "Skycar" - which looks a bit like the Batmobile, also boasts vertical take-off and landing, and can be driven on the road as well as flown through the sky.
-By the time the Skycar goes into production - probably in about six years time - it will be capable of climbing 6,000ft a minute and travelling at up to 400 miles an hour. +The company is currently offering an M400 for sale on its website at between $500,000 and $1m, depending on how many orders it receives.
 + 
 +Dr Moller says the Skycar could be in production within six years or so, and promises a vehicle capable of climbing 6,000ft a minute and travelling at up to 400 miles an hour.
 + 
 +Many promises
 + 
 +But the promise has been made several times before.
 + 
 +In 2003, the US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission, filed a case against Dr Moller alleging that he had used "false and misleading statements" when trying to find fresh investors.
 + 
 +One example contained in court documents claimed that in 1997 his company's promotional material had predicted 10,000 sales of a 400-mile-an-hour flying car by 2002, and had promised a stock market listing - and a sharp rise in share prices - which never materialised.
 + 
 +The case was later settled out of court, with the company paying a civil penalty of $50,000.
 + 
 +So If Dr Moller and his magnificent men get their way, the days of dropping in to the shops or the office may not be far away.
-If Dr Moller and his magnificent men get their way, the days of dropping in to the shops or the office may not be far away.+But eager amateur aviators may be well-advised not to hold their breath.