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BBC – Reuters Cautions Against Muzzlement

I have been accused of not understanding the situation regarding the Hutton report and the BBC. All I know is what I read and I am open to being schooled.

But it is quite clear where Reuters stands on the matter, from the title of this story alone:

    BBC Seeks New Bosses as ‘Lapdog’ Warnings Swirl

    The search began for two new BBC leaders on Friday amid fears its journalists will be muzzled in the fallout from the biggest crisis in its history.

    Former Director General Greg Dyke, who resigned on Thursday after the public broadcaster was damned in the Hutton report into the death of weapons expert David Kelly, said all media should take careful note. “I think every journalistic organization, every newspaper, every broadcaster in this country should be concerned,” Dyke said.

    “Someone inside of government, inside of the civil service who has very real concerns — as Dr Kelly had — could not be broadcast unless you could demonstrate that their concerns were true,” he told the BBC Today program.

    Kelly killed himself last year after being exposed as the source for a BBC report that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government had knowingly exaggerated the threat from Saddam Hussein (news – web sites)’s illegal weapons to bolster the case for war.

    Dyke, a plain-speaking populist whose “cut the crap” campaign to boost creativity won respect from staff stifled by years of bureaucracy, was mobbed by tearful employees when he toured the newsroom for the last time.

    He and BBC chairman Gavyn Davies resigned after judge Lord Hutton condemned the broadcaster in his report this week into Kelly’s suicide.

    “SELF-CENSORSHIP”

    Widespread concern was expressed on Friday that the top two jobs would be filled by Blair placemen and that the BBC’s will to break stories embarrassing to the government would be sapped.

    But the 82-year-old BBC, a source of national pride to millions of Britons who affectionately call it the “Beeb,” will overcome pressure to dilute its journalism, commentators said.

Thank goodness the commentators said that.

This statement seems odd:

    Austin Mitchell, a parliamentarian with Blair’s Labour Party, said the BBC must resist ministers’ attempts to tame it.

    “Good journalism cannot be carried on as if it was a legal process with affidavits and cross checking,” he told the Guardian newspaper.

Good journalism can’t be “carried on” with “cross checking”? It would seem to me it can’t be carried on WITHOUT cross checking – aren’t we supposed to find more than one source? Isn’t that the essence of the original problem here, that the BBC reporter had no other source than the doomed Dr Kelly?

    “It would be disastrous to appoint somebody who is seen to be close to the government or the Labour Party,” Ian Kearns, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning thinktank, told Reuters.

    The crisis could not have come at a worse time for the BBC, which is under pressure to justify its license fee — an annual tax paid by all British households with a television set.

    Its current charter, the rules which set out its public obligations and editorial independence, expires in 2006 and the government has already launched the public phase of the charter review.

    Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said she didn’t want the BBC to become a “lapdog,” but added the Hutton report would figure in the review.

As well it should. Would someone please explain to me why all of this is such a crisis? The report said the BBC should check their facts more diligently – if they were wrong about Blair, shouldn’t they be told this?

As a total outsider who has never even seen the BBC on television (I read the website almost daily and have heard, and in fact, been on, BBC radio), the impression I have is that besides an institutional leaning to the left – as does our own PBS – the BBC goes so far out of its way to make sure that it doesn’t appear to be a “lapdog” for the government that they end up being a lapdog for the anti-government view.

US reporters were surprised to hear how the BBC operated:

    While sympathizing with the BBC’s desire to break news, some U.S. reporters in Europe expressed surprise that Gilligan could run an unscripted report based on one, unnamed source.

    “That took my breath away,” said one U.S. correspondent.

    Broadcaster CNN has a script approval unit that reviews and approves reports before transmission and script editors talk to correspondents hourly, a spokeswoman for the station said. [Reuters]

And perhaps indicating that I am not insane, here is an entire blog dedicated to the beloved Beeb, Biased BBC

UPDATE
BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan resigned Friday after a judicial inquiry repudiated his reporting that the government “sexed up” intelligence on Iraq – the third resignation prompted by the harsh criticism.

….In a statement, Gilligan apologized for mistakes in his May 2003 story.

“My departure is at my own initiative,” he said. “But the BBC collectively has been the victim of a grave injustice.”

“I love the BBC and I am resigning because I want to protect it. I accept my part in the crisis which has befallen the organization. But a greater part has been played by the unbalanced judgments” of senior judge Lord Hutton, Gilligan said.

….The publicly funded BBC, whose extensive TV and radio news and entertainment programming gives it a uniquely powerful place in British life, apologized “unreservedly” Thursday for the errors it made in the story. The network said it had to confront “serious defects in the corporation’s processes and procedures.”

Blair accepted the apology and said it was time for all involved in the bitter row to move on.

“The BBC made mistakes and we have to face up to that,” said BBC head of news Richard Sambrook in an e-mail sent Friday to the corporation’s 3,500 news staff.

“I believe we must restate our core editorial values, look hard at issues of accountability and transparency, and how to sustain editorial quality across the full range of our programs,” he added. [AP]

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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