Wednesday 28th January 2004 The Hutton Report was published and the snow hit!

The Six o’ clock news on the BBC

Not surprisingly since the BBC’s own integrity was under scrutiny and its impartiality and accuracy was being examined, tonight’s broadcast was almost completely overtaken by the publication or the Hutton Report.

The government was completely exonerated and the BBC heavily criticised for its editorial staff not checking the accuracy of Gilligan’s claims and the reliability of his source.

In the immediate aftermath Gavyn Davies chairman of the Board of Directors resigned.

The news broadcast was slightly extended to 6:32 pm with only a short break of 2½ minutes devoted to the weather and otherwise solely dominated by different aspects of the Hutton Report.

To ensure the viewing audience not get bored there was a huge variety of linked items: Andrew Marr, George Eykyn, Nick Higham among other reporters headed up reports on the findings of the report or the BBC’s response to it. Video footage archive and from this afternoon in the House of Commons; interviews with journalists; prepared statements from the Kelly family and the Board of the BBC; scenes in the background from the lobby of the house of commons, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, inside the BBC’s own newsrooms as journalists watched the live coverage as Lord Hutton delivered his verdict on BBC News 24

Lord Hutton’s findings have extremely important consequences for the BBC’s reputation as an impartial, accurate and trustworthy newsgathering organisation.

Gavyn Davies later implicitly criticised Lord Hutton’s conclusions particularly the suggestion that all sources should be thoroughly checked out and substantiated. Davies wonders if this wouldn’t hamstring the BBC in the future unjustifiably and at the cost of investigative reporting.

More about the Hutton Report and the BBC

Tim Gardam former head of current affairs at the BBC and of television at channel 4

…It is a far wider issue of the right relationship between impartiality and editorial independence…

‘…ITC research showed that 63% of viewers found the BBC’s coverage fair to all; 25% found it biased towards Britain and America; and only 12% biased towards Iraq or the anti­war lobby…

‘…what constitutes impartiality in a world of increasingly deregulated news provision…

‘…But it would be a mistake for the BBC to seek survival in a culture of obedience. The BBC is an extraordinarily rare thing, a state­owned asset, funded by a universal tax, licensed to exercise scepticism at the workings of the government. How can the BBC’s journalism maintain its freedom to analyse and question at the same time as arriving at robust definition of its difference of approach that its compulsory levy and duty to impartiality requires? This will be one of the main debates in the renewal of the charter during the next year.’


Martin Kettle

‘So hats off to the Economist editorial that skewered Gilligan for a report that was “typical of much modern British journalism, twisting or falsifying the supposed news to fit a journalist’s opinion about where the truth really lies.

‘…Bravos too for the Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers, “…wake­up call for British journalism” which “should prompt us to rediscover the virtues of accuracy, context and verification.”

‘…as Mark Byford said, “Mostly right isn’t good enough for the BBC.”

The threat to modern journalism is real…it comes from the media’s disrespect for facts, the avoidable failure to be fair, the want of explanation and the persistent desire for melodrama that are spin’s flip side.’


Polly Toynbee: ‘Now Labour must show magnanimity in victory’ Guardian correspondent.

‘So what went wrong at the BBC? Alastair Campbell’s unreasonable barrage blinded them. After all why didn’t he sue the Mail on Sunday, where Gilligan’s article was a far greater affront than on a 6:07 am broadcast? Why take on the BBC, whose war coverage is proven to be the most even­handed? Sadly, Labour has never confronted hostile newspapers, although the British press, 75% Tory, is one of the nastiest and least honest in the world.

‘Labour should have created a statutory Press Complaints Commission, giving its code teeth: self­regulation is a farce….Given the government’s craven behaviour towards newspapers, it was cowardly to vent their fury on the BBC – the only bit of the media they dared to bully.

‘Enemies argue; hand it over to Ofcom…They know that Ofcom would indeed level down the BBC, chip away at its unfair market position. But the BBC is not in the market place. It is a mighty national institution in another realm. It should be allowed to stretch its wings as wide as it can in the public interest, with no commercial agenda. It belongs to the nation and others can find their commercial niches around it where they can. Let it dominate if it can, in the name of citizens, for their good.

‘The BBC governors may look quaint but their sole duty is to protect public service broadcasting…. In no time, the BBC would be where Murdoch wants it – broadcasting worthy stuff no one else wants, diminished and marginalised.

‘Meanwhile new leaders need to steer the BBC further away from the contaminating stink of tabloid news agendas. Break with the prevailing cult of hunting politicians down as criminals…’