Skip to comments.First cracks in unity of BBC Board
Posted on 07/22/2003 7:19:37 AM PDT by jalisco555
Governor demands new summit to reconsider evidence on Dr Kelly
THE FIRST cracks at the top of the BBC over the handling of the David Kelly tragedy appeared last night with a demand from one of the eleven governors for an emergency meeting of the board. The governor told The Times that there should be an early meeting to review whether the board had all the facts it needed when it met on July 6 to back Andrew Gilligan, the BBCs defence correspondent, and the corporations decision to broadcast claims that Downing Street had sexed up the Iraqi intelligence dossier.
A second governor voiced grave misgivings over the BBCs revelation on Sunday that Dr Kelly was the sole source for the claims that Downing Street had exaggerated the intelligence dossier of September last year.
The governor, who declined to be named, suggested that the governors had thrown their full weight behind Mr Gilligan, who ran the original report on the Today programme, because of assurances that the source came from the intelligence services.
The boards statement on July 6 said that journalists could rely on single sources in exceptional circumstances, such as when they were based on senior intelligence sources.
The clear implication was that the board was convinced that the story in question had been so based. But Dr Kelly, posthumously unmasked as the main source, was not in the intelligence services.
The Times has also learnt that the statement released on Sunday admitting that Dr Kelly was the main source of the story caused intense strains at the top of the BBC and was agreed only at the fifth attempt.
It was revealed last night that Mr Gilligan has been taken off reporting duties until the conclusion of Lord Huttons inquiry into the controversy which could be at least two months away.
He is not suspended but Andrew Gilligan needs time to prepare to give evidence to the Hutton inquiry, a BBC official said. Until then he has been taken off active reporting. You will not hear his voice on the radio.
Meanwhile, the BBC vice chairman has written to The Times denying that Gavyn Davies, the Chairman, misled the governors.
Lord Ryder of Wensum, in a letter today, says that neither Mr Davies nor the board knew the identity of the BBCs source until after Dr Kellys death on Friday. However, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, did write to Mr Davies this month saying that Dr Kelly had come forward as a potential source.
Lord Hutton yesterday announced the terms of his inquiry, suggesting that he alone would decide how wide it should go. It would be held mostly in public and produce its findings as soon as possible.
The Government is braced for the inquiry to finish towards the end of September, as the party conference season gets under way.
Tony Blair, speaking in China, said that he would, if necessary, break his holiday in Barbados next month to come back to give evidence.
Lord Hutton asserted the independence of his inquiry with a declaration that he would decide the scope of his questions and the choice of witnesses as I see fit within my terms of reference.
Dr Kellys body was found in woodland near his Oxfordshire home on Friday, three days after he gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry. A coroners court yesterday heard that he died the previous day due to loss of blood from a cut to his left wrist.
The governors next scheduled meeting is in September, but with the corporation under sustained attack there is a growing possibility that Greg Dyke, the Director-General, will call one earlier.
Another BBC governor, who also declined to be named, said: I would agree that the governors need to be convinced that they had all the facts that they needed when they made the statement supporting Andrew Gilligan and his story.
I still think it is right that we went to such great lengths to protect our source. But in the light of all the new revelations, if the situation has in any way become different, I think we should have a governors meeting to review what we did.
Mr Gilligan was accused by the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, after he gave private evidence last week, of changing his story. The governor said: If it is true that Gilligan has changed his story we need to ask his senior bosses why.
A senior BBC official confirmed that a crisis meeting of the governors may be called. There are no plans at the moment. While I dont think one is imminent, it is possible we will have one sooner.
While the BBC maintained throughout yesterday that Mr Dyke and Mr Davies remained united, it emerged that there were serious strains when drafting the statement confirming that Mr Kelly was the main source.
After a series of conference calls between Mr Dyke and Mr Davies a statement was agreed at the fifth attempt.
The BBC denied that Mr Dyke had wanted to go much further and issue a mea culpa statement. We had to finesse the words, said an official.
Mr Davies went through the transcripts of the emergency governors meeting held two weeks ago to make sure he had not misled the governors on the nature of the BBCs source, corporation officials said. The transcripts showed that the governors were told only that Mr Gilligans story was based on a credible and reliable source, it was said.
The BBC has now begun the work of preparing evidence to submit to Lord Huttons inquiry. It is expected to include the notes of the three journalists who independently spoke to Dr Kelly without knowing that they were all speaking to the same source.
The editors of the three programmes involved have all reviewed the notes of their reporters Mr Gilligan, of Today, Susan Watts, of Newsnight, and Gavin Hewitt, of the 10 0Clock News. They are said to be happy that the notes substantiate the items broadcast on the three programmes.
Last night more holes began to appear in the BBCs case. It has highlighted Ms Wattss Newsnight reports, also based on conversations with Dr Kelly, to demonstrate that Mr Gilligans original story was an accurate reflection of the weapon experts views.
However, Ms Watts said on June 4: Our source was not disputing that the 45-minute assessment was included in the dossier by the intelligence services. This sentence directly contradicts Mr Gilligans most contentious allegation that Alastair Campbell had inserted this information into the dossier, against the wishes of the intelligence services.
Jeremy Paxman, the presenter of Newsnight on BBC Two, also asserted in the same programme that Ms Wattss report came from a source in the security services who was not Mr Gilligans informant.
The death of Dr Kelly and the ensuing crisis for the Government appear to have taken a toll on Mr Blairs personal approval rating, which now stands at minus 17, according to an ICM poll for the Guardian published today.
Labours lead has narrowed to just two points compared with a 12-point advantage in the same poll two months ago. Labour is on 36 per cent and the Tories on 34 per cent.
"Impossible dream" is right. In any other country on the planet the NYT would already be totally discredited and forced into bankruptcy.
Wow, not only is Blair's approval rating in the dumps, it's actually negative! Must be a Fahrenheit/Celsius thing, huh?
What am I missing? How is Blairs gov't in trouble by this? It's all a BBC mess as far as I can read.
And,........?.....What is Gilligan's blackground?
You are not missing anything except "journalists" exposed as the agenda driven pontificators that they are.
Before Kelly's death the government was standing by their intelligence reports and the BBC in particular was accusing them of hyping the intelligence to sell the war to the people of Great Britain. Just like President Bush is being falsely accused of the same thing using the uranium reference in his SOTU speech. So, when Parliament actually investigates the reporting and Dr. Kelly is exposed as the source and then turns up dead, the media didn't miss a beat. The trajectory they were on is "Blair's in trouble!", so they kept up that talking point. Reality is overcoming fiction briskly and the BBC is clearly becoming the agency that is on the ropes, as they should be, but old habits die hard, so the reporters can't help but insert references to the "crisis in goverment" and so on.
That's the state of the leftist media these days: just keep screaming their firmly held biased views and hope that the public doesn't question their motives.