BBC faces worst credibility predicament
( 2004-01-30 08:53) (China Daily)
The BBC was plunged into one of the biggest crises in its 82-year history on Wednesday night when the Hutton report unleashed a series of uncompromising criticisms at every level of the corporation and precipitated the resignation of its chairman, Gavyn Davies.
BBC said yesterday that its Director-General Greg Dyke had resigned.
Cabinet ministers, delighted by their political houdini act, wanted further heads to roll at another board of governors meeting yesterday.
Blair's official spokesman also made repeated calls yesterday for the broadcaster to formally apologize.
Senior ministers admire the former BBC Chairman, Gavyn Davies, but regard his departure as insufficient, because of what they see as the complacent stance of Mr Dyke, who is seen as the chief culprit.
Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former director of communications and strategy, who was at the centre of the row, made the most explicit call for BBC heads to roll.
"If the government faced the level of criticism which today Lord Hutton has directed to the BBC, there would clearly have been resignations by now. Several resignations at several levels. Today the stain on the integrity of the prime minister and the government has been removed."
At the BBC, staff were reeling at the outcome. Senior sources at the corporation said the atmosphere in newsrooms on Wednesday was "grim." Mr Dyke, Richard Sambrook, the head of newsgathering, and Gilligan were fighting to keep their jobs.
The BBC, often described as the world's most respected news organization, was in turmoil, forced into the humiliating position of having to report on the disaster engulfing it.
Mr Dyke apologized for the 6:07 am Today programme story: "The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme on May 29 last year were wrong and we apologize for them."
At the weekend, Gilligan told friends he wanted to remain a frontline reporter at BBC News, even if he could not remain on the Today programme.
His future hangs in the balance today as the board of governors meets in formal session.
British press cries 'whitewash'
The rightwing Daily Mail said that judge Brian Hutton's long-awaited verdict, delivered on Wednesday, had attracted "widespread incredulity."
"Justice?" the paper asked in a front page headline. It said Hutton's report "does a great disservice to the British people. It fails to set its story in the context of the BBC's huge virtues and the government's sore vices."
"We're faced with the wretched spectacle of the BBC chairman resigning while Alastair Campbell crows from the summit of his dunghill. Does this verdict, my lord, serve the real interest of truth?" asked columnist Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, which splashed his words across its front page.
In a comment piece for the leftwing Daily Mirror tabloid, journalist Paul Routledge accused Hutton of an "establishment whitewash" which "stinks to high heaven."
Hutton's judgment "makes me feel physically sick, like a victim of a crime who knows that justice will never be done," said Routledge.
The Mirror said the BBC had been left "shamed," but the narrowness of Hutton's remit in his inquiry "meant that the real issue the existence of weapons of mass destruction wasn't even touched on."
"Hutton's whitewash leaves questions unanswered," said the rightwing Daily Express, referring to issues such as whether the government was right to enter the war given that "there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, let alone anything to suggest Saddam Hussein could have launched a deadly attack in just 45 minutes, or even 45 days."
The leftwing Guardian said that Gilligan "got more right than he got wrong" in his reporting, adding that the BBC should now ensure "there is no collective failure of nerve in the corporation. "BBC journalists must go on probing, must go on asking awkward questions and must go on causing trouble," the Guardian urged.
The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Sun, all rightwing papers, called for BBC Director-General Greg Dyke to follow in the footsteps of Davies and resign.
Many dailies agreed that Hutton had exposed s erious failings within the BBC, with the Sun saying he had put the spotlight on the broadcaster's "culture of sloppiness, incompetence and arrogance."
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