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BBC the underdog…

By Aleksander Boyd

London 30.01.04 – You can’t get away from the avalanche of declarations and impromptu statements that are sweeping across all media outlets in Britain today. Political editors, media analysts, journalists, the unions, politicians [from all sides], truck drivers, housewives in sum a multifarious group of people opining about the repercussions that Lord Hutton’s report thrust upon the BBC. Everyone has got something to say about it and the generalised concern points at the BBC being the victim and the government having walked away unscathed.

Yesterday I heard former BBC director general Greg Dyke saying in his “post-mortem” speech to staff “…don’t let anyone force upon you stories that are not fair and true…” What did he mean by that? Do we have to assume then that Andrew Gilligan’s story was indeed true and fair? Or did he want to draw a line and invoke the principles and ethics that should reign in the corporation? In my view Lord Hutton has reprimanded the BBC for having failed to further investigate the accusations of Andrew Gilligan, which taking into consideration the seriousness of them, should have been followed through. The obliteration, by the editorial team and Board of Directors, of the norms contained in the Royal Charter and in the Producers Guidelines have cast a shadow over the BBC integrity and reputation and not, as some would have you believe, the government’s desire to win the vendetta initiated by Alastair Campbell.

Andrew Gilligan continues to work at the corporation; union bosses have expressed total commitment to defend him should he be dismissed. One must wonder why. Alastair Campbell screw things up and he departed from the government alas the similar reaction is nowhere to be found in the case of Gilligan. Instead the fat cats had to leave, not even his immediate superior seems intent in resigning. Mind you, Greg Dyke is perceived as a hero, everyone loves him yet he was forced to resign [according to widespread gossip]. Andrew Gilligan is guilty of utilising “loose language” in the past said his boss, hence there is precedent of journalistic malpractice, his actions immersed the BBC in this mess, yet he stays. Any logic on that?

As a general rule people tend to sympathise with the underdog however the BBC is not mere underdog. False reports presented by the BBC have far-reaching consequences, exemplary case Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Perhaps 15 % of Britons can locate on the map where the country is nevertheless there’s generalised opinion that Hugo Chavez is the champion of the poor. How did they get to that conclusion? All roads go to the BBC… October 16 2003, 11.30PM, BBC2 [prime time slot] Chavez inside the Coup: The Revolution will not be televised. Wednesday 18 November 2003, 11pm-12.05am, Storyville BBC4, Chavez inside the coup [again prime time], Nick Fraser presents “…a brilliant piece of journalism but it is also an astonishing portrait of the balance of forces in Venezuela. On one side stand the Versace wearing classes, rich from many decades of oil revenues, and on the other the poor in their barrios and those within the armed forces who support Chavez.” Then Lord Hutton irrupts in the scene and Dyke declares “…what we tried to do was to defend to the ultimate consequences the integrity and independence of our journalist…” I had say bollocks to that!! Do it BBC, take on Dyke’s words and show some integrity otherwise your foul cry of being an underdog will find no echo. Assuming that the British public will be wise enough to concede that in any story there are always two or more sides democracy-loving Venezuelans continue waiting for an opportunity to show the other side of our story.

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