BBC ban prevents Higham writing for The Guardian

Former BBC media correspondent Nick Higham has been barred from writing a comment piece for The Guardian.

Higham was banned after making controversial remarks about how the corporation’s news agenda was “driving out” current affairs in favour of entertainment and celebrity.

Speaking at the News World International 2003 conference in Dublin last week, Higham said he felt that journalistic standards were being compromised “quite significantly” in order to cover entertainment news.

Higham, who is to take up a new role at the BBC, bemoaned “a massive entertainment public relations machine” that controlled showbiz news. He also said there should be less sports news on TV because “most of it is trivial, insignificant” and “doesn’t add anything to the viewers’ knowledge”.

The Guardian approached Higham to write the comment piece on his views last Wednesday.

The move marks the first implementation of BBC plans to curb its journalists from freelance writing, after Today defence and diplomatic correspondent Andrew Gilligan wrote a piece for The Mail On Sunday in June.

In it he accused former No 10 director of communications Alastair Campbell of being behind the “sexed-up” dossier on Iraqi weapons.

The report led to a spilling over of hostilities between the Government and the BBC that led all the way up to the apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly, and the subsequent Hutton Inquiry into his death.

The BBC said it had always been the rule that you could not write for a publication without clearing it with the press office and line manager.

“We respect Nick’s views – he’s an experienced correspondent – but we did not recognise his description of BBC News. We continue to debate these issues internally, but felt it was best to continue that discussion inside the BBC,” a spokeswoman said.

By Wale Azeez

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