July 01, 2003


Does the BBC even realise what is it confessing here?

The BBC is willing to offer the government an olive branch by admitting that the source who claimed that No 10 had "sexed up" intelligence information may not have been entirely correct.

But it will do so only if Downing Street accepts that its story was legitimate in the context of general concern about the government's use of intelligence material.

So ... the BBC believes it is fine to run incorrect stories if the purpose behind those stories is to undermine the case against Saddam. That makes bogus information legitimate, somehow.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 1, 2003 11:16 PM

That is astonishing. It MUST be a Grauniad misinterpretation, surely.

Who the fuck is the BBC to set TERMS on the basis of which it does or does not acknowledge that a story is incorrect.

If it was incorrect, they should be saying so fully, frankly and unconditionally.

On the other hand, if they believe that the story was correct, they should be telling the government to get knotted.

But there's no in-between.

Posted by: Mork at July 1, 2003 at 11:43 PM

Mork: "That is astonishing."

Not for the BBC - you must be confusing them with an actual news network.

Posted by: Barbara Skolaut at July 2, 2003 at 12:17 AM

The Beeb is reaching and so are all those who oppose being on the "right" side of history.

Huge kudos to Tim Blair for holding the fort down under.

Posted by: AG in Houston at July 2, 2003 at 12:43 AM

The side bar to the Al-Grauniad article includes an article by a Hugo Young entitled "the BBC is standing up for a special British principle".

If he has any honour, Mr. Young will be blushing now.

Posted by: Edmund Burke at July 2, 2003 at 12:51 AM

After their Private Lynch screwup, didn't the BBC also claim that they didn't really think it was true? Perhaps if they started including a "True" and "False" label, they could clarify when we're supposed to assume the story has something to do with reality.

Posted by: John Nowak at July 2, 2003 at 01:00 AM

You gotta give the left credit, they stick together. Check out the sneering tone of the following excerpted opinion piece from the same edition of The Guardian.

The BBC is standing up for a special British principle

The corporation is not run by politicians. We need to keep it that way

Hugo Young

The fact is that Blair-Campbell are no more entitled to be axiomatically believed than a reputable BBC reporter. If anything, less so. They have plenty of form and a heavy motive. As they see the polls going down, they reach for every cleansing detail to purify their motive for going to war. It's another divide with Uncle Sam. Not only do most Americans want to skirt round uncomfortable truth, they are much less bothered with picayune details about WMD. Blair knows his party has not given up on that and nor have many voters. The Blair-Campbell bullying comes spiked with a high-minded piety about truth that should deceive nobody.

But the issue is a lot bigger than who said what when to whom, with what shades of nuance, under what promise of anonymity, in what darkened room of the nods and winks that pass for intelligence info, about what Saddam might or might not be able to launch in 45 minutes flat. The issue is about reputations and the political system in which they live or die.

The BBC has so far behaved impeccably. It made clear what it was and was not saying. It was a lot more careful than Campbell about calling its critic a deceiver. It limited itself to the doubts and nuances its audience has every right to expect beyond straight reporting of the grandees' pronunciamentos.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at July 2, 2003 at 01:40 AM

Let me get this straight:

IF Downing Street "accepts that its story was legitimate in the context of general concern about the government's use of intelligence material" then "the source who claimed that No 10 had 'sexed up' intelligence information may not have been entirely correct." HOWEVER, if Downing Street does NOT accept the "contextual" legitimacy of the BBC story, then "the source who claimed that No 10 had 'sexed up' intelligence information" was completely accurate.

And this makes sense to the folks at the BBC?

Posted by: Sean at July 2, 2003 at 02:12 AM

The BBC is quite a huge joke anymore

Posted by: g wiz at July 2, 2003 at 04:25 AM

Two words say it all:

Royal Ark

Posted by: Tongue Boy at July 2, 2003 at 06:29 AM

Of course, Zsa Zsa, you are assuming "a reputable BBC reporter." Any guidelines on how to decide which ones, if any, are reputable (i.e. in the sense of having established their qualities of logic, factualness, clarity, and fairness)?

I, for one, am getting tired of the "bullying (that) comes spiked with a high-minded piety" from the Beeb. Those who disagree with the received wisdom of the BBC are not necessarily stupid, ignorant, nor evil. Even the BBC can be wrong. It would be nice if they could admit it graciously when it happens.

As for "doubts and nuances," how about a little self-inspection of the Beeb's stances, Hmmm? And they could certainly use a bit more straight reporting and a few less "grandiose pronouciamentos" themselves. Even, dare I say it, a bit less America-bashing. (Or would that be _too_ nuanced?)

The BBC has behaved far from "impeccably." They might consider using more varied sources, including some from the right of the mid-left at least, and fact checking. Until then, their reputation is in shreds for many of us.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at July 2, 2003 at 06:58 AM

This sort of thing makes me proud to be a licence fee evader (uncaught)!
They come across a bunch of amatuerish, vindictive and arrogant tossers. The BBC is not even getting support from the opposition as they have also had cause to accuse the BBC of picking an angle and then twisting the truth to fit.

Posted by: Wookie at July 2, 2003 at 07:08 AM

So a fib is legitimate reporting if it is in the aid of a desired outcome.

Now what was that WMD story they've been running?

Posted by: The at July 2, 2003 at 08:34 AM

This whole spat is serious, and could lead to the resignation of the Director General of the BBC. Now THAT would be a good result.

Posted by: JohninLondon at July 2, 2003 at 09:09 AM

It's the same BBC position as before: they legitimately reported the views of a source. Just with a nicer spin. (Notice no-one appears to be asking who the source was: wonder why?)

What Tim appears to have missed is that the reporter in question is threatening to sue over what's been said about him:

The unprecedented row between the Government and the BBC took a dramatic twist last night when Andrew Gilligan, the reporter at the centre of claims that Number 10 deliberately 'sexed up' evidence against Saddam Hussein, announced he was ready to sue a serving Minister.

Gilligan, the defence correspondent for Radio 4's Today programme, said that he would take legal action against Phil Woolas, the Deputy Leader of the House, unless he received a full apology for allegations made against him.


...doesn't sound like someone who's got something to hide, does it. He must know that in court the whole story will be examined, poked and prodded in great detail...

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 2, 2003 at 10:24 AM

Just like George Galloway, another man with nothing to hide.

Posted by: tim at July 2, 2003 at 12:21 PM

The words that immediately leap to my mind are: "plea bargain"

Posted by: KenG at July 2, 2003 at 12:51 PM

The words that leap to my mind are "Lord Archer." They don't fool around with perjury in Britain, unlike certain other English-speaking countries I could mention.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at July 2, 2003 at 02:26 PM