Here’s the BBC on the BBC:
- BBC governors are holding a crisis meeting on Thursday after Lord Hutton’s damning verdict led the corporation’s chairman to quit.
Gavyn Davies resigned after the most serious claims in Andrew Gilligan’s BBC’s reports were branded “unfounded”.
But he questioned some of the retired law lord’s findings on the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.
….Lord Hutton’s report cleared the government of “sexing up” its Iraq weapons dossier with unreliable intelligence.
But he criticised “defective” BBC editorial controls over defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan’s broadcasts on the Today programme.
….As they met, the prime minister’s spokesman said BBC director general Greg Dyke’s statement after the publication of Lord Hutton’s report did “not amount to a considered statement from the BBC governors”.
“We still want an apology. The BBC should apologise for broadcasting a false allegation which was unfounded,” he said.
….The turmoil at the BBC comes amid calls for the BBC to come under outside regulation and after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the Hutton report would be taken into account in the 2006 review of the BBC’s charter.
….In his long-awaited report, Lord Hutton said he believed Dr Kelly had killed himself after being named as the suspected source of the BBC’s controversial weapons dossier story.
Among his findings were:
-The BBC governors should have properly investigated Downing Street’s complaints as they defended the corporation’s independence
-There was no “dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy” by the government to leak Dr Kelly’s name covertly to help its battle with the BBC
-The Ministry of Defence was “at fault” for failing to tell Dr Kelly that his identity as the suspected source would be confirmed to journalists who suggested it
-Mr Blair’s wish for the dossier to make a persuasive case might have “subconsciously influenced” Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett to use stronger words than usual but Mr Scarlett had acted to ensure the dossier was consistent with reliable intelligence. [BBC]
Hutton’s full report is here.
Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement of London and former editor of the London Times, on the matter in the Wall Street Journal:
- The British Defense Ministry, and its boss Geoff “Buff” Hoon, had been the butt of abuse for weeks, criticized for failing to take due care of Dr. Kelly, a shy and private man, who, despite giving briefings to journalists which had been catastrophic for all concerned, had been honored for his past work as a distinguished scientist and weapons inspector in Iraq. Mr. Hoon did not know just how fiercely the judge, Lord Hutton, might attack him or his handling of the events which led to a veteran employee being found dead in an Oxfordshire field. Many thought that Mr. Hoon’s would not be the name on the defense secretary’s desk at the end of the week.
Just as anxious was the British Broadcasting Corporation. One of its journalists had begun the Hutton saga by ad-libbing a radio report which accused Tony Blair’s office of “sexing up” the case for war against Iraq, of misusing intelligence data for political ends, and of ignoring traditional checks and balances designed to separate the objectivity of agents from the ambitions of their political masters. The government had cried foul. The BBC had refused to retract. A bitter battle had broken out and at the end of it David Kelly was dead by his own hand and a judge was investigating why.
….The end of the Blair era, the age in which socialism has been struck from the Labour agenda, was reported to be nigh.
Instead today, it is the opposition to Mr. Blair, both in the Conservative Party and in his own party, which have been scattered by the Hutton express. It is the headquarters of the BBC which has a jagged hole in its walls. In more than 700 pages of analysis, Lord Hutton concluded that the BBC’s charge against Mr. Blair’s integrity was both “very grave” and “unfounded.” Its reporter had wrongly attributed to his source, who was Dr. Kelly, statements about duplicity and deception in Downing Street. Its senior editors had been “defective” in discovering and remedying this falsity.
The BBC’s governors, a very British body of the “great and the good” whose job is both to regulate the Corporation’s editorial performance and protect those editors from political interference, had failed to balance those two obligations. It had protected a flawed assault on the government, without even knowing, or trying to know, how false it was. The chairman of the governors has done the honorable thing and stepped down. It remains to be seen who decides to follow him — and who is gently encouraged to.
….Critics will call the Hutton report a “whitewash” and worse. London is still full of rumors that Tony Blair has done yet another deal with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to stand aside and let his friend and rival move to Number Ten. The prime minister has certainly sometimes looked ragged and tired since the war. Hostilities to him personally, to his market reforms to education and health services, to his support for George Bush, all remain strong. That is not likely to change. But Tony Blair looked bright and sprightly in Downing Street yesterday — as the express train smashed and crashed on the media-men’s side of town.
The BBC neutral, fair and balanced? Hardly: anti-war, anti-Blair, leaning way to the left – let us not forget their recent craven sniveling at the feet of Muslim hypersensitivity in the Kilroy-Silk affair, either.
I have no doubt that Blair’s government gave a reading to the available data that most favored their pro-war policy position, as did the Bush administration, but that is not the same as falsifying or even “sexing up” the information.