Saturday, 1 September 2018

He who casts the first stone, etc.

David Jordan

SAMIRA AHMED: No one from the BBC was available to speak to us about this before I am pleased to say we are now joined by David Jordan, the corporation's director of editorial policy and standards. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. Do you accept as many viewers say that the BBC has fallen below the standard expected of it? 
DAVID JORDAN: We are very clear we regret some aspects of the way in which we covered the Cliff Richard story at the beginning. We made clear that we think that the use of a helicopter was inappropriate in the circumstances and that there were some other things about the way in which we covered it, the proportionality of it and so on, which we, with the benefit of hindsight, now regret. So yes, there are certain things about the way in which we did the story which we regret. But we have never conceded the principle, and that's why we got involved in the court case when Sir Cliff took a case against us. We have never conceded the principal, nor wish to concede the principle, that we should not have reported the matter at all. 
SAMIRA AHMED: The editorial misjudgement is the one we want to talk about. You mentioned the helicopter going up, which was defended at the time. Leading bulletins with it and going live, those were areas, too? 
DAVID JORDAN: Well, those were all the areas which the judge criticised in his judgment...
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) And do you agree? 
DAVID JORDAN: ...and which the BBC has conceded that, with the benefit of hindsight, we might have done differently, if we did the story today...
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) Entering it for an award, despite all the criticism? 
DAVID JORDAN: Yes, well, the BBC has said that was a misjudgement. 
SAMIRA AHMED: Sir Cliff offered to settle this without going to court and the police of course did settle. It has cost the licence fee payer £2 million so far. Would you like to say sorry? 
DAVID JORDAN: Well, it's not true that Sir Cliff offered to settle it. We offered to settle with Sir Cliff on a number of occasions, but what Sir Cliff's lawyers wanted was not a settlement but a surrender. They wanted us to concede the principle, as well as to acknowledge that the way in which we had done things was not appropriate. So it isn't true to say that Sir Cliff offered to settle. I'm afraid he didn't, otherwise we could have prevented us having to go through all of the ensuing case. 
SAMIRA AHMED: Well, can you talk about this point of principle then? Because if it's a big point of principle that your journalistic freedom is threatened, why are you not appealing? 
DAVID JORDAN: Well, we've made it clear we considered appealing very carefully. The problem is that legal advice that we were given is that the prospects of success in a legal case were very small. So the judgment we had to make was whether it was worth going forward with a small likelihood of being successful, or not to go ahead at all. Given the costs of litigation in this country, which are very considerable, and given the extra pain that would have been caused to Sir Cliff and all for the unlikely to result in the outcome that we wanted, which was to contest the principle involved in this case, we decided it would be better not to do so. 
SAMIRA AHMED: You see, given that he was not arrested at the time and wasn't subsequently charged and no one had ever covered a case like this, sending up a helicopter before, people are asking why did the BBC claim there was a public interest defence to this? 
DAVID JORDAN: Well, this took place in 2014 in the context of a number of sexual abuse cases involving high-profile people in the entertainment industry, and it was the case that in some of those cases where people were named it resulted in other allegations coming forward and other victims presenting themselves and thereby making the case against them considerably stronger. And we have had something similar happen in the United States recently with the naming of Harvey Weinstein, the accusation he is a sexual abuser, bringing forward a lot of other cases of a similar sort. So that is where a considerable part of the public interest lies. There also is a public interest in the public knowing about police investigations and the media's ability to scrutinise those public investigations and scrutinise the work of the police. And there is a public interest and the public's right to know things that are going on in our society and that is always the presumption from which we start. 
SAMIRA AHMED: You're the head of BBC editorial policy and standards. You heard the court evidence, BBC journalist joking in e-mails about Jailhouse Rock, "congratulations and jubilations". Is that acceptable by BBC editorial standards?
DAVID JORDAN: Well, we've made it clear  that, it is not an editorial standards matter as such, but we made it clear that was not appropriate. However, you know, let's be clear, who of us have not issued at some point in our lives an e-mail which, if read out in a court room, or plastered all over the national press, would not look slightly awry? 
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) Hmm. This is BBC editors about a serious allegation.
DAVID JORDAN: It was people who are covering a story and they were celebrating the fact that they had covered the story - and they did it in an inappropriate way, in a wrong way, but, you know, he who casts the first stone, etc. 
SAMIRA AHMED: Jonathan Munro came on Newswatch after the story ran and defended it and defended the helicopter and, you know, it's very interesting to see with the benefit of hindsight, but the BBC is supposed to have editorial standards and judgement and what viewers are really concerned about is the BBC didn't seem to have them at the time of the Cliff Richard case. 
DAVID JORDAN: No, I think some misjudgements were made. They were made in good faith at the time. They were made within the context of the law that applied at the time and nobody was trying to do something wrong. It was at that time completely standard practice to name a person who was the subject of a police investigation. This case has altered case law on this question. In a way... 
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) Well, Mr Justice Mann denies that.
DAVID JORDAN: Well, I'm afraid that means he hasn't read his own judgment. 
I'm afraid his judgment... 
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) You're telling me he was wrong?
DAVID JORDAN: I'm afraid his judgment says this, and it introduces a huge chasm of uncertainty into whether or not you can name a suspect in these circumstances. He does say if the police name them you can do so, but he introduces...and he does say if it is manifestly in the public interest you can do so, but then he says that it wasn't in the public interest in this case. which involved a sexual abuse case...
SAMIRA AHMED: (interrupting) So you take it case-by-case. You have made that clear, that is a legal issue about whether the balance between the public interest and the right to privacy, and that's a case-by-case basis says the judge. Can you tell me why no one at the BBC has resigned over this Cliff Richard case? 
DAVID JORDAN: Well, it's not always the right thing to do, to sack people or make people resign, when something goes wrong. Obviously, it's very important that we learn the lessons - and we have done and are doing - and we will do things differently in the future. But. as I said, the people who made the decisions about how this story was going to be covered did so in good faith, they did so within the context of the law as it existed at that time, and it's not always appropriate to sack people and get people to resign for doing their job in the way that they thought was proper at the time. 
SAMIRA AHMED: David Jordan, thank you. 
DAVID JORDAN: Thank you. 


  1. The 'public interest' card that the BBC like to play, and is central to their justification of the hounding of Cliff Richard in this case, is wearing very thin.

    There is public interest in identifying those who would bring terrorism to the streets of the UK, but in these instances key facts are routinely withheld - 'a man' or 'Oxford men' etc.

    Equally, there is public interest in the integrity and past activities of our politicians. This information is often withheld if it were to prove inconvenient to the BBC narrative - for instance failing to question in any depth Labour/Corbyn/McDonnell economic policy. Or, failing to give a balanced set of opinions over Brexit from both the main parties; repeated trying to expose divisions as a means to undermine the Conservative government, when the public knows that the divisions run equally deeply in the Labour Opposition.

    The 'public interest' filter is adjusted to suit the BBC's 'PC ideology' (MB's excellent phrase - if not their new-religion).

  2. Good grief! A High Court judge hasn't read the judgment he has written? This slow-motion car crash of an interview shows in technicolor that in the BBC's eyes it can do no wrong. Jordan also can't see the illogic of his own position. If Justice Mann's ruling does make a massive change in the law, as he claims, then it would be possible to appeal against it. The reality is that it does not - and the basis of the verdict was that he simply applied the privacy law in the context of the BBC's appalling behaviour. Jordan's overall stance here can be compared to a trapped Dalek going round in circles yelling 'exterminate'. And has he actually libelled Justice Mann? Saying a High Court judge doesn't read his own judgments is a pretty hefty kick at his reputation calculated (with malice in the legal sense) to lower it.

  3. 'We are very clear we regret some aspects of the way in which we covered the Cliff Richard story at the beginning'.

    From his very first words you can tell he has no regret and hasn't learned a thing. it really was a car crash interview where he came across very badly by being defensive and evasive. No wonder BBC is such a mess. Him in charge of policy and standards! It beggars belief, it really does.

    I thought Samira did a good job putting him on the spot. He wouldn't apologise or say sorry when pressed. He wouldn't admit journalists did their jobs wrong on this story.

    What a complete w@nker.

  4. I have to comment on Mr Jordan's disgraceful response. As a publicly funded broadcaster, surely the BBC should be fighting injustice, rather than being complicit in it, and these responses have compounded the view that Sir Cliff was badly served. There appears to be an attitude prevalent these days, similar to that propounded by many high profile politicians, that as long as a person feels no shame at their actions, then there is no need to even pretend that they do. Sadly, for some, the threshold for shame is distressing low, as evidenced by Mr Jordan in this interview