Sunday 6 January 2019

Owen Bennett-Jones on BBC 'independence' from the government

Owen Bennett-Jones writes:

As for the claim that the BBC is independent of government influence, I have never believed it since conducting an interview with the then foreign secretary Jack Straw in 2004. Our interaction came at a moment when there was a slight difference in the line being taken by the Foreign Office and Number Ten about the various inquiries into Iraq – exactly the sort of thing BBC journalists were paid to niggle away at. When I kept going on about it, Straw eventually lost his temper and swore on tape. Scoop! The difficulty was that the Foreign Office funded the World Service. As I left King Charles Street, I called the BBC to say I had a story. By the time I got back to the office, a manager had already called FCO officials to apologise. Straw’s loss of temper was never broadcast and the offending part of the tape was purged from the archive.

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