Oi, The BBC may not be telling the truth?
Reporter Susan Watts told an inquiry into David Kelly's death the scientist did not tell her in a telephone call that Blair's top adviser Alastair Campbell transformed a dossier on Iraq's banned weapons to justify a war most Britons opposed.
She also accused BBC bosses of pressuring her to make her report tally with that of her colleague, defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan. The British Broadcasting Corporation's director of news rejected that remark in his evidence to the inquiry.
''(Kelly) didn't say the dossier was transformed in the last week and he certainly didn't say that the 45-minute claim was inserted either by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in government,'' Watts told the inquiry.
This is pretty damning. Gilligan is on record as saying his reporting may have been less than perfect and that he did not have complete notes regarding his interviews with David Kelly. Watts is suggesting that what she heard from Kelly is substantially different from what Gilligan claims he heard. Even more damning is Watt's suggestion that she is being pressured.
The report in the Guardian is even more damning.
Susan Watts, science editor of Newsnight, stunned the Hutton inquiry when she denounced the BBC's "misguided and false" attempts to use her stories to corroborate the controversial reports of Andrew Gilligan. With BBC executives sitting nearby, Ms Watts said she felt under "considerable internal pressure" to reveal her source and was moved to hire independent lawyers.
link et seq. the guardian
Watts felt that her reporting was being used by the BBC to back up Gilligan and she was outraged that the BBC's statement on Dr. Kelly's death did not exonerate her from the charge that she may have revealed him as a source prior to his death.
BBC executives were already aware of the level of Ms Watts' anger, and expected her to make some criticisms yesterday. But they are understood to have been astonished that she chose to make her most trenchant remarks after James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, had finished his questioning: she began her attack only when Mr Dingemans asked her if she had anything else of relevance to say.
A tape of a conversation between Hutton and Kelly was played at the inquiry. It was not terrifically revealing about the truth of Gilligan's report but it also, as the Telegraph points out,
casts doubt on the integrity of the man himself, showing that he deceived the Commons foreign affairs committee when he denied being the source of three BBC stories.
link the telegraph
For political and media junkies the Kelly affair is like catnip. To what degree can the BBC defend itself when it seems clear that the strict truth of its reports is in doubt? Can Blair and the BBC both survive? What will Lord Hutton conclude as to the facts of the matter?
In essence this is an argument about the BBC's transparent anti-war bias. But it is also a debate about whether the chattering classes in England can be allowed to continue to hide their bias behind the independence of the BBC. It is a debate which will echo in Canada where our own CBC long since lost touch with its national audience and is now hunkered down in Toronto hoping that the NDP or Sheila Copps will somehow win political power.