Not only Hutton, please, BBC

- while we’re ‘managing’ disastrous news, don’t ignore Galloway! According to a widely cirulating report from Le Monde, which has found echoes in such luminaries as The Washington Times, and ABC in America, a number of French public figures have been named by ‘independent newspaper Al-Mada’ in Iraq, quoting IGC sources and Hussein regime documentation, among a long list of people who received the proceeds of barrels of oil from Saddam. The BBC a few days ago reported this scandal via the protestation of innocence of one former French Minister- Charles Pasqua- while the other names on the list are referred to as ‘foreigners’ (presumably ‘foreigners to Iraq’). But wait, not so fast- not only are there hundreds of important names to investigate, as I read the Le Monde article I come across this very newsworthy passage, semi-translated by Google:


‘George Gallaway, former Labour deputy with the Communes, appears in good place in the list. Its name is mentioned in six contracts and the newspaper publishes a letter of the SOMO on December 31, 1999, signed by Saddam Zbin, cousin of Saddam Hussein which managed this company and in which it asks for the ministry for oil of grant contracts to him. Apparently, this British member of Parliament was particularly well treated.’

Now, Pasqua’s name might be newsworthy- in France (though not as newsworthy as Chirac, see Washington Times)- but Galloway is trying to launch his own ‘electoral coalition’ in the UK. He’s also still an MP. His new party is called R.E.S.P.E.C.T., and don’t you think the BBC should allow us a peek at these allegations to see if he deserves any? Maybe they’re frightened of adding to the laughter in court ….“I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned a barrel of oil, bought or sold a barrel of oil… “.

I mean, I could understand some squeamishness in the Telegraph (in the midst of a libel saga, after making similar allegations), but where’s the BBC when you need them? Oh, I forget, in a heap on the floor, exhausted from journalistic ‘crusading’. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the initial links. Oh, and before I go, a mention for Harry’s Place , who noticed this too. Meanwhile, since I made notes of this, Scott Burgess has been on the case, and former French Prime Minister Alan Juppe has created a different kind of stir. It’s all go in the world of corruption!). Update: Stephen Hayes thinks the Telegraph might have been onto something.

Update2: How about rounding off with an Iraqi POV via Healing Iraq?

Rich writes:

On the morning thing, they had David Attenborough, they showed 2 minutes of one of his excellent nature shows and then cut back to the sofa. “Will we ever see programmes like that again?” asked Bill Turnbull.

Of course, now that they have been exposed for what they are, all documentaries and period drama will be pulled from our screen. It’s an inevitable concequence, isn’t it?

Oh, and did you see when Greg Dyke came out of broadcasting house to give his speech, I do believe the door hit his ass on the way out. Nice touch.

Rich

John Perry writes:

Everything you need to know about the BBC on one page.

…within hours of director general Greg Dyke’s resignation on Thursday, there were unprecedented scenes of spontaneous support and raw emotion from BBC employees outside Television Centre.”

Passing drivers… honked their horns in a cacophony of support.

“It’s an unprecedented show of determination and support, for the BBC and its values,” said Jeremy Dear of the National Union of Journalists…”

Values? What values?

Regards, John Perry

I’m glad, I really am, that Mr Dyke’s last gloomy hours in post were cheered by the knowledge that his colleagues held him in affection. He was one of them.

That was the problem.

And so the war goes on

‘The White House has acknowledged for the first time that its intelligence reports on Iraq might have been wrong. ‘ -BBC introduces report of Con Rice’s interviews.

“I think that what we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground” -Con Rice on CBS

The two statements do not agree- the difference is subtle but crucial, aside from the inference that we are about to hear of a formal statement- and above is the only meaningful quotation given of Rice’s words in the article on the BBC website. Once again the BBC has ‘interpreted’ the views of its source- in this case remarks made by Condoleeza Rice on CBS [and, I should add, a low-key, tacked-on comment to NBC]- by making a central eye-catching claim that cannot be supported by the evidence they produce. It is interesting how this story found NO place on CNN’s front page at the same time, and no place on CBS either, though I would stress that I don’t believe that CNN or CBS is particularly friendly towards US policy. If it was a real story, as opposed to an uncalled for scrambling of well-chosen words, does it take the BBC’s ‘non-flag-waving’ journalism to discover it? Or is it just the BBC trying to fight back against what it sees (and believes is at the moment popularly seen) as a ‘whitewash’ of the concerns about WMD that appeared to motivate Gilligan? I would submit that there can be a sensible media approach to this issue, and the BBC is leading the media away from it by reporting in this manner.

Greg Resigns! BBC Apologises!

Ah, let’s begin our favourite Then and Now comparisons:


‘In fact last year I was sitting at a dinner party in London next to a charming American woman who asked me what I did. I said I run the BBC. She then informed me she regarded the BBC as a communistic organisation.

That was decision time. Did I get into a detailed argument about publicly funded broadcasting with someone who appeared culturally unable to understand the merits of such a system, or did I just politely get back to eating my dinner.’

Naturally, Greg (once known to some affectionately as ‘Boss Hogg’) didn’t bother with the detailed argument bit, and just tucked in.

I’m sure that lady would be interested to hear that the criticisms of Lord Hutton of BBC Management included- I’m being kind and only using three-


‘failing to investigate…to make an examination…to appreciate’

and would reflect on who might have been culturally disabled.

On Being Ungracious

. Not surprised to hear from the Guardian of Gilligan anger and NUJ militant spin in the face of Hutton’s well aimed punches. I’m also not surprised to hear that Gavyn Davies made an ungracious exit, questioning Hutton’s ‘bald conclusions’ even as he looked up at his red card, or that any number of people, including the Tory Leader, Michael Howard (in his way), will give comfort to the BBC ‘victims’ of Hutton. I am though as convinced as I can be that Hutton did all that he could do in the circumstances, as opposed to the crude balancing act that could have salved the reputations of the BBC journalists involved and saved the blushes of the journalistic establishment. The truth was that all the crucial lacunae (gaps) of logic and action were on the part of Gilligan and the BBC, along with almost all the obvious dishonesty, and, well, Hutton’s a judge, so…

‘In what amounted to a complete demolition of Gilligan’s controversial report. Lord Hutton cast doubt on the “sexing up” claim and rejected as “unfounded” the allegation that the infamous 45-minute claim had been inserted at the request of the government.

Meanwhile this from Gilligan also via the Guardian:

‘Andrew Gilligan today came out fighting with a statement issued on his behalf describing Lord Hutton’s report as “grossly one-sided”.


Much of this basically via Jeff Jarvis. Also, my own little word to Gilligan- you see, for you this Hutton report was like an exam, with marks for every separate question of fact you might in good faith have been attempting to answer with your reporting, and- you failed. No point pretending that you didn’t when even those sympathetic to you saw in it a ‘demolition’, and anyone who listened to Hutton listened to the force of argument tempered by considered reason. If he didn’t get around to criticising Blair, which to be fair he couldn’t in the context you helped define, that was because your facile errors and insouciance in the face of reality took up all of his concentration. Actually, for Hutton, you became the story- which is I think a good bit more just, in the context, than when that was said of Alastair Campbell.

Ahem

, in the light of BBBC’s continuous stream of comments on BBC bias, and some report a judge has filed, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies has an announcement to make. HE’S RESIGNING! (Thanks, Susan)

Update: There’s wisdom in the comments from Patrick B : ‘Gavyn Davies to offer to resign—but what about DYKE and the rest of the sorry gang of propaganda artists? And will the Board of Governors ACCEPT the resignation, or will they dare Tony Blair to step in and clean the stables? ‘

Further Update: Ok, I really believe that Davies has resigned now, and that it’s been accepted (although Patrick B. still has a point or two I shouldn’t forget). Why? Oh, I heard it on the BBC.

Some (random?) Key Points To Share From The Hutton Report:


-The 45 minute claim was not absent from the first draft of the Iraq dossier because it was considered unreliable, but because it was intelligence gathered too late to be included.

-It was from what was believed to be a trustworthy source and it was not true that there always had to be a second source for intelligence to be deemed trustworthy. Many of the assumptions that Gilligan made were likewise ignorant.


-The dossier had not been ‘sexed up’, and absolutely not in the way that Gilligan implied.

-Gilligan reported Kelly as saying things that he never actually said:


‘I am satisfied that Dr Kelly did not say to Mr Gilligan that the Government probably knew or suspected that the 45 minutes claim was wrong before that claim was inserted in the dossier. I am further satisfied that Dr Kelly did not say to Mr Gilligan that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source and the intelligence agencies did not really believe it was necessarily true.’- Lord Hutton, Chapter 12, 2.i, The Hutton Report.

In other words, Gilligan lied in referring to his source, his only source, and (we learned from Hutton if we didn’t already know) no-one at the BBC cared, or cared much. Why? I would submit because of BBC bias.

I am in agreement with Jeff Jarvis’s position on this:

‘I used to respect and even love the BBC and I didn’t join in with many others going after them at every turn. But the more I saw of Gilligan, as a symptom of the disease, and the more I saw the BBC leadership allow Gilliganitis and its lies and irresponsibility and journalism-by-agenda to spread through its organization unchecked, and the more I heard the head of the BBC attack American journalism, the more I believed that the vaunted BBC was blindly destroying its own credibility and even that of journalism.’. Go and read it all.

Hutton

That article in the Sun is here.

The Telegraph reports here.

The Guardian is here.

The Times is here.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports the story in a slightly different way (‘Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 08:44 GMT’, whole story pasted here to watch for stealth edits – emphasis added):

The Sun says the report came from someone ‘with no vested interest’

Lord Hutton is to deliver his long-awaited verdict on the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly in a few hours.

His findings were due as a row grew over what appeared to be leaked details of the report in the Sun newspaper.

It claims Tony Blair is cleared of any “dishonourable conduct”, but the BBC is accused of a series of failings.

The Tories have blamed the government for the leak but Downing Street has strongly denied it was responsible, as has the BBC.

Tory party leader Michael Howard called for the Metropolitan Police commissioner to conduct a full inquiry into the “disgraceful” leak.

Advance copies

Lord Hutton will set out his key findings in a televised statement at 1230 GMT, an hour before his full report is published.

MPs will then be able to tackle the prime minister about the report during a Commons statement at 1400 GMT.

INQUIRY BACKGROUND


September 2002: Government produces dossier about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including claim they could be deployed within 45 minutes


May 2003: BBC Today programme’s Andrew Gilligan broadcasts report of claims Downing Street “sexed up” dossier, with 45 mins claim included against intelligence agencies’ wishes


10 July 2003:Dr David Kelly named as suspected source of report as government continues to deny the story


17 July 2003: Dr Kelly found dead


August 2003: Lord Hutton begins six weeks of hearings about the circumstances around Dr Kelly’s death

Q&A: Hutton Inquiry

Advance copies were given at lunchtime on Tuesday to the government, the BBC and the family of Dr Kelly, after they undertook not to reveal its contents.

The weapons expert apparently killed himself last July after being named as the source for BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan’s story that the government exaggerated its 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons.

According to unconfirmed reports in the Sun, Lord Hutton cites a psychiatrist’s evidence that the scientist committed suicide because he had been “publicly disgraced”.

The newspaper claims that Lord Hutton says the BBC report that Downing Street “sexed up” the dossier was “unfounded”.

BBC media correspondent Nick Higham said the Sun had throughout the inquiry put the worst construction on evidence about the BBC and the best gloss on the government’s actions.

“It may be that what we are getting is a version of Lord Hutton’s views filtered through the Sun’s eyes,” he told the BBC 10 o’clock News.

BBC COVERAGE

ONLINE:

Webcast of Lord Hutton statement and Commons debates, with full text commentary

News and analysis as it happens

Round-the-clock weblog from BBC’s team of correspondents


TELEVISION:

Hutton Report special on BBC One from noon

Round-the-clock coverage on News 24


RADIO:

Full coverage on BBC Radio Five Live

Full coverage and analysis on Radio Four in extended World at One. Live coverage from the Commons at 1400 GMT on long wave, with a special programme on FM at 1500 GMT

The Sun says the judge is also said to criticise BBC governors for failing to make a detailed investigation into whether Gilligan’s story for Radio 4′s Today Programme was supported by his notes.

The paper says the report finds there was no “dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy” by Tony Blair or the government to leak Dr Kelly’s name as the BBC’s suspected source.

It claims Lord Hutton says the Ministry of Defence was “to be criticised” for not telling Dr Kelly his name could be confirmed to journalists or that it had eventually emerged.

He notes, however, that the scientist was not an “easy man to help or advise”. [Note no reported reported speech when Kelly is implicitly criticised]

The Sun says Alastair Campbell, Downing Street’s former communications chief, is “cleared completely” of any wrongdoing.

‘Filtered’ version

It is understood the newspaper has not seen the full report, but has had parts of the findings read to it.

The report comes after Blair defeated rebels on tuition fees


Downing Street on Tuesday evening categorically denied “that anyone who was authorised by the government to see this document has either shown it to, or spoken about it to, anyone else”.

But Tory co-chairman Dr Liam Fox said the government’s fingerprints were “all over” the leaking of findings from an inquiry which was itself set up to investigate the “unauthorised disclosure of information”.

Top-up fees

The report is the climax of evidence from 74 witnesses over the six weeks of the Hutton inquiry, which involved thousands of pages of documents.

Lord Hutton was asked to inquire into the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly’s death, and has spent more than four months writing up his conclusions.

Tory leader Michael Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy are currently reading the report, having been given advance sight of it from 0600 GMT on Wednesday.

The report comes after the government scraped a five-vote victory in the House of Commons test of its controversial plans for university top-up fees.

Now there are calls for an inquiry into the leak itself. Welcome to modern Britain, the land of government by inquiry….let the circus continue!

Friends Reunited

. I was interested when I noticed (thanks to a commenter) that the BBC and Human Rights Watch are reunited once again, because the BBC, HRW and we at BBBC go back a bit. Anyway, in their latest well-timed offering (HUTTON’s nearly upon us) they ask ‘why George Bush and Tony Blair did not try remove Saddam Hussein much earlier’, part of a finger wagging theme that the war must not be retrospectively justified on humanitarian grounds. This struck me as a bit disingenuous really, not to say stupid (unless they got confused and meant Bush senior?), because although W. scarcely had time before Sept 11th 2001 struck, Clinton along with the CIA wanted to in the 90′s, and he aspired to intervene militarily to remove Saddam.


Basically this kind of non-story is given high profile because HRW and the BBC habitually get into bed together, and of course the sceptical slant against the war is now essential to the BBC’s coverage of anything. Oh, and did I mention HUTTON? It does, however, show HRW ready and willing to pour cold water on the emergence of the very values they espouse. I quote:


‘the scope of the Iraq Government’s killing in March 2003, was not of the exceptional and dire magnitude that would justify humanitarian intervention.’

Update. Jeff Jarvis has more: ‘This is a tainted, political move by Human Rights Watch… the organisation would rather fight Bush than defend the human rights of the Iraqi people’. Kinda like the BBC, really.

Remember, you heard it here first – we made sure of that.

The BBC, with a chutzpah I can only admire has bought up all the Hutton Google links. None of that old-fashioned nonsense about an interested party to the enquiry maintaining a decent restraint from the BBC.

UPDATE: Scott Burgess is in correspondence with the BBC about this. Also note Angie Schultz’s comment.