Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Bad, bad BBC: The results of the Hutton Inquiry into the death of British weapons inspector David Kelly, whether the British government "sexed-up" its intelligence or the BBC "sexed-up" its reporting, are in -- and it's bad news for the BBC.
The 740 page report focused its ire on the British Broadcasting Corp. and its failure to verify "journalist" Andrew Gilligan's report. The report also faulted the BBC for, in the aftermath of Kelly's death, reflexively circling the wagons, again without investigating Gilligan's report.
A few hours later, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned without comment.
The BBC is (finally) taking some responsibility for its orignal (false) reporting.
"The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan on the Today program on May 29 last year were wrong and we apologize for them," BBC Director General Greg Dyke said.
The "certain key allegations" were the only ones that made the report newsworthy. Without them, Gilligan would have never gotten his air time.
This incident also provides a contrast between British journalists and American ones.
When American journalists are found to have intentionally falsified their reporting, the investigation is conducted by their own publication and they are fired or forced to resign. They also are typically shunned by their colleagues. You don't find the Society for Professional Journalists coming to the rescue of disgraced reporters.
In contrast, you have the British National Union of Journalists:
The National Union of Journalists, representing Gilligan, said the BBC could face a strike if he was disciplined or fired. The union said the Hutton report was "selective, grossly one-sided and a serious threat to the future of investigative journalism."
Gilligan needs to go if the BBC ever hopes to start pretending that it's even somewhat unbiased.
It will be interesting to see what The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough has to say on this issue. As I've noted before, Goldsborough has been quick to defend the BBC's reporting and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Hutton report.