BBC goes ahead with 'crime day' despite criticism

A defiant BBC said it would continue with plans for a single-issue day on crime despite being accused of playing the role of a "state broadcaster" with its recent NHS special.

The BBC said there would be no changes to its plans for a second special next month when programmes and features on TV, radio and online will be devoted to the subject of tackling crime.

"We don’t accept the criticism about the NHS day and we will definitely be going ahead with future plans for specials," a spokesman said.

"The NHS day was watched by over 20 million people throughout the day and contained criticism of the NHS as well as some of the good things."

But Sky News political editor Adam Boulton, who spearheaded the attack on the BBC’s special programming on the NHS at the Edinburgh Television Festival, claimed the corporation had played into the hands of Government spin doctors by crowning the day with a policy announcement from the Prime Minister.

Other senior journalists also expressed concern that Blair was given the opportunity on a programme hosted by Nicky Campbell to signal the likelihood of tax hikes to fund increased health service spending.

His statement came after a BBC poll showed 69 per cent would support increases targeted at the NHS.

Boulton argued that the BBC had "pushed the boundaries of impartial journalism".

"I don’t think it is a conspiracy," Boulton told Press Gazette. "But by outlining the problems of the NHS in that way it provided an ideal PR opportunity for the Government."

ITN political editor John Sergeant claimed it amounted to "state broadcasting".

BBC head of current affairs Peter Horrocks vehemently defended its NHS special, telling his critics: "I don’t know who you think we are that we would be patsies to the Government and if you had heard Alastair Campbell on the phone to me telling me how much he was opposed to the idea, you may think differently," he added. "The idea that we did it because we were told to, or that we were in concert with their policies, is completely wrong."

 

By Julie Tomlin

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