Back Issues 10.06.05

JUNE 1985

By John Slattery

BBC team pulls out of Beirut

The BBC’s news team in Beirut pulled out after the collapse of a
media safety pact put the lives of reporters Gerald Butt, Keith Graves
and Jim Muir in danger.

The pact, whereby allegations about Shi’ite atrocities in
Palestinian camps were to be pooled so they could not be identified as
coming from one source, involved Reuters, Associated Press, UPI, AFP
and the BBC. Butt said all the agencies backed out of the deal which
meant the BBC was the only news organisation running the story at the
time Shi’ite militiamen were roaming the city with grenades and heavy
machine guns. He told Press Gazette: “We felt terribly exposed and very
vulnerable and it was inevitable that there would be some kind of
reaction. Gradually one sensed very strong anger in the Shi’ite
community about what the BBC was doing. We could have gone to ground
and hidden for a while and could possibly have continued broadcasting
about non-controversial matters, but the truth was that every day there
were these stories coming out which you have to broadcast. In
particular when no-one else is doing so.”

Daily newspapers in a two-horse race

The wealthy Maktoum family was revealed as being behind plans for a
new paper, the Racing Post, to be edited by Graham Rock. The family had
set up a new company to publish the paper, chaired by Sir Gordon
Brunton, former chief executive of the International Thomson
Organisation. The move came as a shock for the Sporting Life, owned by
Robert Maxwell’s Mirror Group. He responded to the challenge by
stating: “The future of the Sporting Life is guaranteed.

There’s no room for two publications. The Life has been around for
126 years and I am prepared to spend whatever is required to keep it
there.” Maxwell was right about one thing. There was room for only one
title – the Racing Post, which merged with the Sporting Life in 1998,
and is now owned by Trinity Mirror.

Merseyside reaches out to Italian disaster victims

The Liverpool Echo produced a special 12-page edition to be sent to
Italy after 39 fans, mostly Italian, died following crowd trouble
before the European Cup final match between Liverpool and Juventus.

The special, written mostly in Italian, expressed Liverpool’s sorrow
over the disaster. Echo editor Chris Oakley said: “There was deep
sorrow and it was felt that the Echo – as the voice of Merseyside –
should reflect this to the people of Italy.” The special was taken to
Turin – home of Juventus – by an official delegation to the city from

Truce? Kelvin still up for a fight after spoiler

Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of The Sun, was cleared by a High Court
judge over his attempts to “spoil” a story in the Daily Mirror. In a
forerunner to the recent legal spat between Hello! and OK! over the
Douglas wedding, Mr Justice Hirst dismissed a move by Mirror publisher
Robert Maxwell to have MacKenzie punished. It was alleged the Sun
editor had broken an injunction not to use extracts from a book
exclusively serialised in the Mirror. But the judge ruled The Sun was
entitled to use a 19-word extract from Hollywood director Peter
Bogdanovich’s book about the murder of Playboy playmate Dorothy
Stratten, with whom he had an affair. Mr Justice Hirst said: “The
spoiling of each other’s stories is, in itself, perfectly legal…

I cannot help feeling that it might be in everybody’s interests,
including the public, if the two sides could agree a truce.” Some hope.

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