Dyke urges BBC chiefs to break silence over Gilligan

BBC
bosses must make it clear what they think about Andrew Gilligan’s
“sexed up” dossier story now it has emerged that no weapons of mass
destruction have been found in Iraq, ousted director general Greg Dyke
has said.

Up until now the new heads of the BBC had said “absolutely nothing”

about whether it had been right to report David Kelly’s concerns about how the WMD dossier was prepared.

“The
current leadership has got to stand up and say what it believes about
the story,” said Dyke. “At some stage it has got to make a decisive
statement.

Then it can clear the decks and move on.

“It has
got to say what it believes about the issue. It has to say whether it
still supports that terrible statement by Lord Ryder.”

Dyke
described the day that Lord Ryder, the then acting chairman of the
governors apologised “unreservedly” as “one of the saddest in the
history of the BBC”.

Speaking at the Frontline club in London to
an audience of journalists, Allegra Versace Beck, heir to the Versace
fashion millions, has won an apology from Now magazine after
complaining to the PCC.

The 18-year-old was unhappy about an article published on 15 September headlined: “Yes, you can be too rich and too thin”.

In
an apology, the glossy weekly said: “We speculated about Ms Versace
Beck’s health and wellbeing, which we accept we should not have done.
We wish to apologise to her for this intrusion into her private life.
We have agreed that we will not repeat the article.”

She complained that the article was in breach of clause three of the Editors’ Code (privacy).

Dyke said it was a source for concern that Ryder’s statement was cleared by Downing Street beforehand.

He
accused his former bosses of “political cowardice” and of sacrificing
the BBC’s independence for pragmatic reasons, namely the need to
negotiate its charter.

“If the BBC’s not politically independent, it is nothing,” Dyke said.

 

WMD dossier

PURVIS ALSO SAYS BBC MUST MAKE STATEMENT

Former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis has criticised the BBC for
not publicly acknowledging what was right in Gilligan’s story as well
its inaccuracies, writes Caitlin Pike.

“Gilligan was onto something big and he deserves credit for that.
But his story was, to put it mildly, imprecise. His bosses were never
quite sure what exactly the story was and what about it they stood by
and what they didn’t.”

Purvis described Ryder’s unreserved apology as an “unconditional surrender”

but paid credit to BBC news journalists who immediately turned to independent voices for a reaction.

“I
said on air that Ryder was wrong and that the BBC Governors had
completely lost sight of the journalism at the heart of the affair.”

Purvis,
News International visiting professor of broadcast media at Oxford
University, was giving the first of a series of lectures. Purvis said
the “big tent” theory explained the Government’s attitude to the media
in the run-up to the Iraq war and led to subtle self-censorship at the
BBC.

“If Campbell was determined to shut down the voice of the
outside which threatened his tent, the BBC governors showed improper
haste making peace with those inside the tent.” Purvis also looked at
the lessons learnt by the US media following inquiries into inaccurate
reporting at the New York Times and CBS News.The inquiries were painful
but they said publicly what had been got right and what had been got
wrong.

“A similar inquiry at the BBC would have come to the
conclusion that much of what Gilligan had said was right. But that, of
course, would have meant re-opening old wounds.”

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