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BBC Workers Angry At Hutton Attacks
IT TAKES a perverse talent to achieve what Hutton, Blair and Campbell et al did within the BBC last week. At a stroke they united tens of thousands of BBC workers in support of their multimillionaire former bosses who were initially seen as 'Tony's cronies'.
Allegedly, there's a civil war going on inside the BBC. But if so, it is a civil war of unequal proportions. The overwhelming majority of the BBC's workforce are incandescent at the attempted witch-hunt of the BBC by one wing of the establishment around Hutton and the government. They are almost as angry at the establishment inside the BBC who are preparing to roll over and play dead to satisfy Alistair Campbell's bloodlust.
But many BBC workers realise that behind the war with the government are more than just the issues of BBC independence and integrity. Many suspect, correctly, that another agenda is emerging more openly in the run-up to the BBC's charter renewal.
The Hutton Inquiry report was leaked to the Sun, confirming how close the Murdoch empire is to Blair and his courtiers. The Downing Street clique will be delighted for Murdoch to increase his already substantial influence in Britain at the expense of the BBC and other media organisations (some of whom, like ITV and the Telegraph group are also experiencing crises at present).
If Murdoch were to expand his slimy tentacles it would suit Blair and Campbell to have a public broadcasting system similar to Murdoch's Fox News in the USA, which uncritically repeats every sliver of propaganda from the Bush regime.
The BBC was not, contrary to some government insiders' claims, anti-war; as anyone who tried to get media coverage for the anti-war movement would confirm. The BBC proved during the war that it is part of the establishment. But, having to reflect public anger, neither was the BBC completely uncritical of the government, which is what Blair and Campbell wanted.
BBC HEADS and Andrew Gilligan himself admitted that (relatively minor) errors were made of attribution with his initial source. But as the full transcript of Hutton reveals, Gilligan's story was overwhelmingly correct (as was Susan Watt's Newsnight piece, which made the same point and was based on the same source, Dr David Kelly).
Indeed, all the BBC's reporting under scrutiny at the Hutton Inquiry was immeasurably more factual and accurate than government intelligence dossiers. And, none of the BBC reports were at all influenced by 'subconscious' thought processes.
After Hutton polls show a substantial majority of the public believe the BBC told the truth, by a margin of 3:1 against the government. The 'accuracy' of Gilligan's report and the subsequent government/BBC war was a diversion from the real issues raised by BBC reporting after the war, which Blair is increasingly under pressure over.
It remains to be seen who will replace Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke. But, whoever emerges, BBC workers will have to ensure that their trade union organisations take a determined stand to protect any journalist or BBC employee who faces pressure for being critical of the government, big business or any establishment figure.
The National Union of Journalists' threat of organising strike action if Andrew Gilligan was sacked was not put to the test - Gilligan resigned. Nevertheless, BBC workers will stage protest action again on 5 February.
BBC workers and the wider public can have no trust in the BBC board of governors, whose "grovelling" apology to the government is viewed as a humiliation by BBC staff.
Instead, to ensure a BBC free from commercial influence and ensuring relatively independent journalism, the BBC board should be genuinely representative of society as a whole, which includes having elected representatives from workers' organisations like the trade unions.
In The Socialist 7 February 2004:
War and occupation
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis