BBCdefends decision to disclose minister's letter

The BBC says it was justified in disclosing extracts from a government minister’s letter of complaint about the Today programme because it was not private correspondence and no breach of confidence was involved.

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge wrote to BBC chairman Gavyn Davies in a bid to stop an item on child abuse featuring on Today last week.

In the letter, Hodge accused Today reporter Angus Stickler of “deplorable sensationalism” and of waging a “concerted campaign” linking her to cases of child abuse in Islington during the Seventies and Eighties, where she was leader of the council between 1982 and 1992.

Hodge further copied the letter to BBC director general Greg Dyke, director of news Richard Sambrook, Today editor Kevin Marsh as well as her own solicitors.

The corporation published a “clarification” saying it put details of t h e letter into the public domain on 14 November because it “was not marked private and confidential”.

“Today thought carefully and consulted widely with legal and editorial policy before disclosing the contents of the letter. “They consider that the balance of public interest lay with reporting the response of a Minister of State when faced with these very serious allegations and issues,” the BBC said in its statement.

The minister apologised this week to Demetrious Panton, a former child abuse victim in Islington, for calling him “an extremely disturbed person”

By Wale Azeez

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