The BBC has issued an apology to value fashion giant Primark after a three year inquiry revealed that the broadcaster used faked imagery of child labour in a Panorama expose.

The BBC Trust found that footage of three boys working in dire conditions in Bangalore in India were “more likely than not not genuine” and that the evidence of the fakery was in the BBC’s possession before the programme was aired.

Primark was forced to fire three Indian suppliers for supposedly using child labour to finish Primark goods following the programme ‘Primark on the Rack’ which was broadcast on June 23, 2008.

Primark said it welcomed the apology and hoped that the findings of the BBC Trust would lead to better standards of editorial control and balance in documentary-making at the BBC.

A Primark spokesman said: “The confirmation that faked material was broadcast by Panorama is extraordinary.

“Millions of people have been deceived by Panorama. Viewers who watched the programme, shoppers who were then fed the lie, sourcing experts who believed the lie, teachers and pupils who viewed the programme in lessons, have all been badly let down.”

He continued: “Panorama simply did not find child labour involved in the Primark supply chain as the programme sought to suggest but relied on fabricated footage to air a programme otherwise based on prejudice.”

The retailer said it was forced to carry out its own investigation into the allegations to unearth the fakery, going through four complaints processes over three years.

Primark added that it did not accept that some other footage used in the film was genuine but decided not to pursue the matter relating that particular imagery further.

The spokesman added:  “Like all clothing retailers, Primark knows that sourcing in the developing world is difficult and needs constant care to ensure the best possible working conditions. But this film was a deliberate mischaracterisation of Primark’s business, its supply chain, and its ethics. Sensationalising these issues by the use of fabricated journalism harms the very people whose lives retailers, trade unions and NGOs are all working to improve.”

The BBC Trust said on its website: “The Trust would like to apologise on behalf of the BBC to Primark and to the audience at home for this rare lapse in quality.”

Primark responds to the BBC Trust's Panorama verdict