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28/01/2004

Bad day for BBC as Hutton catalogues 'defects'

Lord Hutton's report into the Kelly affair has today delivered a damning indictment of the BBC's "defective" editorial systems, management policies, and self-regulation.
Worse still for the corporation, Lord Hutton concluded that the BBC's precious independent regulation system, the final arbitrators of which are the board of governors led by Chairman Gavin Davies, had failed to effectively investigate the issues fully.
Attacking the BBC management for allowing the Andrew Gilligan report to be aired "alleging that the government knew the 45-minute claim to be wrong or questionable", Lord Hutton concluded that there were serious failings in the BBC's editorial policy that had allowed an "unfounded" report to be broadcast.
Lord Hutton said: "Where a reporter is intending to broadcast or publish information impugning the integrity of others the management of his broadcasting company or newspaper should ensure that a system is in place whereby his editor or editors give careful consideration to the wording of the report and to whether it is right in all the circumstances to broadcast or publish it."
The report concluded that Mr Gilligan's "very grave allegations in relation to a subject of great importance" had been broadcast under a "defective" editorial system, one where Mr Gilligan was allowed to broadcast his report "without editors having seen a script of what he was going to say and having considered whether it should be approved".
In the BBC probe prior to the government's complaint to the BBC, Lord Hutton said that management had been "at fault" for not examining Mr Gilligan's notes of his meeting with Dr Kelly to see if the allegations made were supported.
Referring to an internal email from Today Editor Kevin Marsh, which was critical of Mr Gilligan's reporting methods, Lord Hutton said: "The lack of knowledge of this critical e-mail on the part of the Director of News Mr Sambrook and the Governors shows a defect in the operation of the BBC's management system for the consideration of complaints in respect of broadcasts."
While Lord Hutton said that the BBC Governors were correct to protect the editorial independence of the BBC, he was nonetheless highly critical of the Governors' subsequent shortcomings in investigation into the veracity of Mr Gilligan's allegations.
He concluded: "…the Governors are to be criticised for themselves failing to make more detailed investigations into whether this allegation reported by Mr Gilligan was properly supported by his notes and for failing to give proper and adequate consideration to whether the BBC should publicly acknowledge that this very grave allegation should not have been broadcast."
The unequivocal criticism by the Hutton report into the operation of the BBC's editorial policy, editorial management and regulation has raised serious doubts about the BBC, which has already been prompted to make a series of changes.
World Service boss Mark Byford was recently appointed as Deputy Director-General with a remit to overhaul the BBC's complaints procedures.
(SP)
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