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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 00:35 GMT
What the Papers say: A fight to the death
Press reports about Panorama

Whilst we await Lord Hutton's verdict, Panorama provides a factual account of the fight between the government and the BBC.

Lord Birt, Lords debate, 4 Feb 2004
"I assure your Lordships that throughout the BBC, at every level, there are many who do appreciate the significance of what occured, who are deeply commited to journalism of the highest standard.

"The powerful Panorama, put out in the week befre the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton reported, is one testament to that. It is on the firm foundation of its own best people that the BBC can re-stake its claim to offer journalism of challenge and integrity; can embrace the rigour that goes hand in hand with robustness."

Alice Thompson - Daily Telegraph - 30 January 2004
"John Ware's Panorama gave the fairest summing up so far into the events surrounding Dr Kelly's death."

Ann Leslie - Daily Mail - 30 January 2004
"Despite all its faults it (the BBC) is best of all. What other organisation would have aired its own failings in such a no punches pulled manner as the BBC did last week in its Panorama special on the Gilligan affair?"

Martin Bell - Guardian - 29 January 2004
"The BBC has recently experienced a revival in its fortunes. The director general, Greg Dyke, has revived staff morale. Its own analysis of the coverage (of the Hutton report), in Panorama, was an example of robust and independent journalism."

John Simpson - Sunday Telegraph - 25 January 2004
"The Guardian thought last Wednesday's Panorama about the Gilligan affair and Dr David Kelly's death was an exercise in "self-loathing". I thought it was the best piece of BBC journalism I'd seen in years. After all, if you aren't honest about the failings of your own organisation, how can you be trusted to be honest about anything else?"

Richard Stott - Sunday Mirror - 25 January 2004
"There is a splendid justice in Andrew Gilligan's fury over the hefty bucket of nasty thrown over him by Panorama investigator John Ware, who revealed the Today programme's defence correspondent had been hauled over the coals before over the accuracy of his reporting.

"It is f****** outrageous," spluttered Gilligan. "I am furious that he has said this about me without even putting it to me." This is exactly the complaint, and in more or less the same language, made to the BBC by Downing Street after Gilligan's original, inaccurate report that led to Dr Kelly's suicide."

Nick Robinson - The Times - 23 January 2004
"One sentence in John Ware's excellent report holds the key to why this programme was made. "Trust in the BBC is an inheritance", he intoned "that's been built up over nearly 80 years. It stands or falls on the accuracy of its news reporting."...

"Upholding the BBC's journalistic integrity was the proper, ethical reason for commissioning this extraordinary edition of Panorama and why the programme and its bosses deserve credit for broadcasting it."

Leader - Daily Mail - 23 January 2004
"BBC at its best. Is there any other organisation in the world that could examine its own failings so openly and honestly. The Panorama programme on the death of Dr David Kelly was in the very best tradition of public service broadcasting - and whatever the Hutton verdict next week, a reminder of the BBC's value"

Leader - The Independent - 23 January 2004
"It is difficult to imagine any other journalistic organisation broadcasting the equivalent of Wednesday night's Panorama programme which bluntly criticised the blanket refusal of Greg Dyke, the BBC's director general, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of its governors, to admit to any mistakes in the corporation's reporting that triggered the sequence of events that led to Dr Kelly's suicide.

"Not only that, but it was a well-made, serious programme, dealing with important issues in a clear way that seems almost old-fashioned now. It deployed none of the patronising gimmicks that so often pass for current affairs television these days."

AN Wilson - Evening Standard - 23 January 2004
"The Panorama programme was absolutely right to lambast the BBC, and in particular Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke, for defending a story which had, by the time they did so, been shown to be false."

Evening Standard editorial - 22 January 2004
"(Panorama) will have done much to restore faith in the corporation's integrity. Lord Hutton's report next week will be about two things: the honesty of Tony Blair's government and the trustworthiness of the BBC. And in showing that the corporation is capable of genuine self-criticism, the screening of this documentary will have answered some of the public's concerns . . .

"The purpose was to show viewers that it continues to operate within the best traditions of the nation's public service broadcaster . . . With charter renewal looming, the corporation is at pains to prove its independence and fitness to continue as a licence-funded broadcaster. And, by that criterion, the programme can be judged a success."

Guardian - 22 January 2004
"Watching Panorama's pre-Hutton verdict special was like sitting through one of those interminable Eastenders feuds in which aggressive men spit venom at each other for reasons that no-one can entirely remember. In the soap it's Phil Mitchell and Steve Owen arguing about why somebody torched the car lot; in Panorama it was the BBC and the government arguing about the war in Iraq...

"There's no doubting the film's integrity - in many ways this was a public demonstration of the Corporation's independence and not only from government influence, but also from its own internal management. But is it desirable for the BBC to broadcast what amounted to an apology for its part in the Kelly affair before the announcement of the Hutton verdict?

"As political documentaries go, A fight to the death was unparalleled. Unease about its provenance, its timing and its purpose, however, remains."

Gerald Kaufman - The Times - 22 January 2004
"What did we get? A turgid, highly selective, 90 minute regurgitation of evidence to Hutton, heavily slanted against the government."

Daily Telegraph - 22 January 2004
"The timing is embarrassing for the BBC - only days before Lord Hutton publishes his report into the death of David Kelly, the weapons inspector who was Gilligan's source. The programme appears to have brought to the surface long-simmering discontent among many at the BBC over its response to the row with No 10 and is likely to cast long term doubt on Mr Dyke's future.

While Panorama: A fight to the death criticised the BBC's lack of journalistic rigour, it also highlighted serious concerns about the behaviour of Downing Street and the intelligence chiefs."

New York Times - 22 January 2004
"The "Panorama" program, created by the BBC's investigative documentary unit (Note: Panorama is produced by the Current Affairs Unit), appeared to be trying to distill the most unpleasant questions that its producers believe Lord Hutton must resolve. It included previously unused film from an October 2002 interview with Dr. Kelly in which he was asked whether there was an "immediate threat" from Mr. Hussein's chemical or biological weapons.

"Yes, there is," he replied. "Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks. So yes, there is a threat." The report thus sheds new light on Dr. Kelly's views right after Mr. Blair had made his case to the British public in September 2002, including the claim that Iraq could activate chemical or biological weapons in 45 minutes and threaten British forces as far away as Cyprus.

But the documentary also sought to establish that while many intelligence professionals considered the Iraqi leader dangerous -- especially if attacked -- they were uncomfortable with political efforts to turn raw intelligence into unequivocal fact so as to portray him as an imminent threat to Western interests."

The Sun leader - 22 January 2004
"How ironic that Dr Kelly's testimony, recorded nine months before his suicide, should be made public in a Panorama programme in which the BBC investigates itself...and finds itself guilty.

"Last night's programme was the BBC getting its apology in before Lord Hutton's report savages it. But the Beeb cannot alone shoulder the blame for this tragic affair."

Trevor Kavanagh - The Sun - 22 January 2004
"Suicide scientist Dr David Kelly last night gave evidence from beyond the grave to support Tony Blair on Iraq. His testimony, seen for the first time in a Panorama special, will haunt the BBC and destroy the credibility of Today reporter Andrew Gilligan."

Adrian Hamilton - Independent - 22 January 2004
"Just what the corporation thinks it is doing by dumping on its own journalism beggars belief. There's absolutely no justification in terms of public interest to try and second guess Hutton. He can presumably be relied on to produce a far more definitive account than Panorama can at this last stage."

Quentin Letts - Daily Mail - 22 January 2004
"Last night's Panorama was an exemplary, compelling piece of corporate self-flagellation. Its makers seized the greatest political scandal of our era and gave it a damned hard shaking. Good for them. Rotten teeth rattled, stinking gums gaped. From the corners of our tight sealed Establishment seeped corruption.

"Technically the programme achieved miracles of compression and clarity. It was as though someone had taken a comb to a bowl of spaghetti, separating tangled strands so they at last made sense. Greg Dyke, BBC Director General, was here a gorblimey bluffer. The chairman Gavyn Davies, was stubborn and plump. Defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan (to an unfair extent I'd say) was duffed up big time, though the actor playing him was more suave then the genuine item. It is hard to see how BBC News chief Richard Sambrook can hold onto his briefcase after this torpedo, too.

Editorially, therefore, John Ware's film was astonishingly objective. Can we imagine New Labour ever being so creditably tough on itself? Can we heck."

Daily Mail - 22 January 2004
"Last night's Panorama was an unprecedented exercise in self-examination by the BBC."

Matt Wells - Guardian - 22 January 2004
"There is no doubt that the BBC's news and current affairs operation has passed the test of reporting this difficult story with consummate objectivity. But as Ware said last night, the only verdict that matters is the one to be delivered from the Royal Courts of Justice in London next week. Live, naturally, on BBC News.

Daily Mirror - 22 January 2004
"The BBC last night turned on itself over the WMD fiasco that led to weapons expert Dr David Kelly's death. In a damning Panorama documentary Beeb bosses were accused of not checking reporter Andrew Gilligan's story about the Government's spiced-up Iraq dossier. And the programme revealed there was near panic at the top when BBC Director General Greg Dyke and his chiefs realised the extent of the storm they were engulfed in."

Daily Mirror leader - 22 January 2004
"A week before Lord Hutton delivers his report on the Kelly affair, the BBC has owned up to its mistakes. At least, that is one way of looking at last night's Panorama programme. The Corporation deserves credit for exposing itself to this self-criticism. But the harsh verdict of Panorama is not a substitute for whatever Lord Hutton has to say. The real judgment on the BBC and government will be his. There may well be far more serious consequences than self-flagellation on the TV."

Financial Times - 22 January 2004
"In an interview conducted one month after the publication of last September's government dossier on Iraq's WMD, Mr Kelly was asked if Saddam Hussein was a real threat who possessed WMD and replied: "Yes. Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks."

His comments indicate he could have been sceptical about the much discussed claim in the government dossier that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes. However, the government could also claim that Mr Kelly's interview - a transcript of which was sent to the Hutton inquiry while it was sitting - shows he clearly believed Iraq had WMD, despite the embarrassing inability of US and UK officials to find the material after the war."

Nick Assinder, BBC News Online - 21 January 2004
"There were no major revelations but, presumably, that is not what it was all about. It was about attempting to create a coherent narrative out of a hugely complex, twisting and contradictory series of events. The fact that it also succeeded in making riveting television is a bonus."

Independent - 21 January 2004
"An impeccably impartial summary of the clash between the BBC and the Government, ahead of the release next week of the Hutton report into the death of the MoD weapons expert Dr David Kelly. Could the careers of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Tony Blair be on the line? "

Daily Mail - 21 January 2004
"With Lord Hutton's long-awaited report into the death of Dr David Kelly due to be released next week, Panorama provides a factual account of the events surrounding the clash between the BBC and the Government over defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's controversial report on the Iraq weapons dossier"

Daily Telegraph - 21 January 2004
"What timing. Just one week ahead of Lord Hutton's along-awaited verdict on events surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, John Ware presents a report that will be digging deep into BBC Defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's main allegation made on the Today programme last year, that the government had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Expect criticisms all round, not least of lax editorial procedures. It's definitely not Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's week, either. Wait for the tears, resignations and sackings."


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