The BBC contemplates procedural changes

BY ninan| IN Media Practice | 28/01/2004
The BBC contemplates procedural changes


The Hutton report’s strong indictment will see the BBC overhauling its editorial and complaints procedures.


 A seven-month confrontation between the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British Government reached its denoument when the judge inquiring into the David Kelly episode, Lord Hutton, gave his report. He exonerated the government and made strong indictments against the BBC, leading to its chairman resigning.  Meanwhile the corporation had already begun reviewing its own editorial procedures.




     Key points:

     Here are the major points from Lord Hutton`s report into events surrounding    the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.



      Dr Kelly took his own life and no third party was involved

     No-one involved could have contemplated that Dr Kelly would take his own life as a result of the pressures he felt

      Dr Kelly was not an easy man to help or to whom to give advice

      Can not be certain of factors that drove Dr Kelly to suicide

      Dr Kelly probably killed himself because of extreme loss of self-esteem and would have seen himself as being publicly disgraced

      Dr Kelly would have felt his job was at risk and that his life`s work could be     undermined



 Andrew Gilligan`s report that Downing Street "probably knew" the 45-minute claim in its Iraq dossier was wrong was a grave allegation and attacked the integrity of the government and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)

 The 45-minute claim in the Iraq dossier was based on a report received by the     intelligence services that they believed to be reliable

Whether or not that source was subsequently shown to be unreliable, the central allegation made by Andrew Gilligan in his BBC report was unfounded

 The allegation that the reason the claim was not in the original draft of the dossier was because it was only from one source and the intelligence service did not believe it to be true, was also unfounded

 It is not possible to reach a definite conclusion as to what Dr Kelly said to Mr     Gilligan  

 Satisfied Dr Kelly did not say to Mr Gilligan that the government knew the 45-minute claim was wrong or that intelligence agencies did not believe it was    necessarily true

      ON THE BBC

      Editorial system at BBC was defective in allowing Mr Gilligan`s report to go to   air without editors seeing a script

    BBC management failed to make an examination of Mr Gilligan`s notes of the     interview with Dr Kelly

 There was a defect in the BBC`s management system relating to the way complaints were investigated

 BBC governors failed to investigate Mr Gilligan`s actions properly


 The Prime Minister`s desire to have as compelling a dossier as possible may have subconsciously influenced the JIC to make the language of the dossier stronger than they would otherwise have done

  The JIC and its chairman, John Scarlett, were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC

 The dossier could be said to be "sexed up" if this term is taken to mean it was     drafted to make the case against Saddam as strong as intelligence permitted

But in the context of Mr Gilligan`s report, "sexed up" would be understood to mean the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable. This allegation is unfounded


      There was no underhand government strategy to name Dr Kelly

      It was necessary to have Dr Kelly before the foreign affairs committee

      If details that a civil servant had come forward to volunteer he had met Mr   Gilligan had been withheld, the government would have been accused of a     cover-up

    The Government`s belief that Dr Kelly`s name was bound to come out was well   founded

      MoD did take some steps to help Dr Kelly once his name was made public

      The MoD was at fault in the way it dealt with Dr Kelly once his name was      made public

      MoD failed to tell Dr Kelly his name would be made public

      Dr Kelly`s exposure to press interest was only one of the issues putting him     under stress


 The publishing of leaked extracts of the report in the Sun newspaper was         deplorable  

 Investigative and legal action is being considered over the leak

Final submissions to the inquiry from parties involved are being made public




Excerpts from a story on the changes likely to be made on the way the BBC handles its journalism. Full story at

                               Change likely at the BBC

                        By Torin Douglas, BBC media correspondent

  Long before Lord Hutton completed his report, it became  clear there would be changes in the way the BBC handles its  journalism as a result of the  events leading up to the death of Dr David Kelly.

  The inquiry raised serious questions about the corporation`s editorial                 and  complaints procedures.

Indeed, the first acknowledgment that changes were needed  came almost a fortnight before the scientist`s death.

 On Sunday 6 July last year, the BBC`s chairman Gavyn Davies called a special meeting of its board of governors to discuss  Alastair Campbell`s allegations of bias in the BBC`s overall Iraq war coverage and, specifically, Andrew Gilligan`s Today report about the government`s intelligence dossier.

 Afterwards, Mr Davies issued a statement, saying the board supported the decision to broadcast the Gilligan story but also intended to review the rules under which BBC journalists were allowed to write for newspapers.

It was Gilligan`s article in the Mail on Sunday, naming Mr Campbell as the person who had ordered the "sexing up" of the dossier, that - in a famous phrase - gave the story "booster rockets".

                    *               *                *              *

 Robust investigation

 The BBC has also announced it is strengthening its complaints process and the editorial procedures designed to ensure programmes comply with its guidelines.

 Both had been criticised by some of those giving evidence to Lord Hutton.

 The head of the BBC World Service, Mark Byford, has been  promoted to deputy director general and put in charge of both complaints and compliance procedures.

 Reporting to him will be a new controller of complaints, heading an enlarged department, and the controller of editorial policy, whose department already deals with programmes before they are broadcast.

 But senior figures have made it clear they do not believe the BBC should withdraw from investigative journalism, as some people - including more than one BBC governor - have suggested.

 They say one reason for these changes is to ensure such  investigations are as robust as possible.









Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More