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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Gilligan fights back over Hutton
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff in Edinburgh

Andrew Gilligan
Andrew Gilligan resigned from the BBC in January
Former BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan has strongly criticised the government, the BBC's governors and Lord Hutton at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Gilligan sparked a row between the BBC and the government after his report on BBC Radio 4 claimed the government knew its dossier on Iraq was wrong.

He criticised the "over-reaction" of BBC governors, who "turned a crisis into a disaster" by sacking Greg Dyke.

He also warned the BBC was in danger of being "cowed" after the Hutton Report.

The source for Gilligan's radio report, Dr David Kelly, later committed suicide, resulting in Lord Hutton's report into the affair, which heavily criticised the BBC.

In his first public speech since the Hutton Report, the journalist said BBC governors had panicked in the wake of its findings.

I am a little concerned that the government may pull out a late strategic result in extra time if it succeeds in cowing the BBC
Andrew Gilligan
"By sacking Greg Dyke, it was they who turned a crisis into a disaster," he said.

"But unlike the rest of us, who've been held to account for our failings, the governors are still here."

Gilligan told the festival events had ultimately shown his story to be "largely right".

"The dossier was sexed up, the intelligence services were unhappy about it... and Alistair Campbell was at the heart of the process," he said.

Gilligan admitted he made a mistake in his first report broadcast at 6:07am on Radio 4's Today programme.

By sacking Greg Dyke, it was they who turned a crisis into a disaster
Andrew Gilligan on BBC governors
"I did not accurately reflect what David Kelly had told me. That is why I apologised, and it's one of the reasons I resigned," he said.

But he said the mistake was "almost certainly the most ridiculously over-analysed sentence in recent broadcast history".

He said that while the government's response to the story had been a "tactical triumph" it was also a "strategic defeat".

"If the aim was to disprove the BBC's story and restore faith in Tony Blair, it simply could not have been more counterproductive."

But he warned: "But I am a little concerned that the government may pull out a late strategic result in extra time if it succeeds in cowing the BBC. The jury is still out."

There just haven't been any high-profile, ground-breaking investigations of the government
Andrew Gilligan
Describing Lord Hutton as a "Guantanamo judge" he said his judgement, in which the government was cleared of any wrong doing, was "utterly unbalanced".

"If my dossier had been considered by a libel jury, or even a different judge, we would all be now talking about the vindication of the BBC."

Gilligan praised the quality of the BBC's investigative journalism in its current affairs output but said there was little evidence of it in the corporation's day-to-day news output.

"There just haven't been any high-profile, ground-breaking investigations of the government," he said.

Public role

Meanwhile, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has said it is in talks with the BBC on how the two broadcasters can work together.

Mr Duncan, who joined Channel 4 from the BBC less than three weeks ago, addressed a session on public service broadcasting in the digital age at Edinburgh.

He said he felt the two broadcasters could work together in the areas of education and new media.

He also said a much reported possible merger between Channel 4 and Five remained an "option" although discussions had yet to take place.

"One big thing Channel 4 and the BBC have in common is that ultimately they are there to have a public role," he said.

But he stressed the heart of what Channel 4 does is "about doing something different from the BBC".


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