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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
We are not afraid
By Kevin Bakhurst
Editor, BBC Ten O'Clock News

Fiona Bruce prepares to read the Ten O'Clock News
The New Statesman claims that BBC journalism is "muzzled" post-Hutton
The idea punted by the New Statesman that BBC journalism has suddenly undergone some sort of loss of nerve is a pretty grave and bizarre charge from where I sit.

The Ten O'Clock News is arguably the BBC's most prominent and most-watched TV News programme and so we're subjected to scrutiny night after night.

The politicians, the extraordinary array of pressure groups and lobby groups, our competitors and a host of newspaper columnists sit poised to pounce on perceived bias, inaccuracy or missed stories.

And yet in my two years in the job, I have been encouraged to ask the tough questions; to look for the stories in the UK and around the world that the powerful don't always want covered; to take on difficult stories and tell them in a robust and hard-nosed way.

Not alone

Not once in my job have I been asked to lay-off any subject. When I have needed backing, I have got it. I have an easy remit: be accurate, fair and balanced; go after the truth however uncomfortable it may be.

I'm not alone in this. The BBC has an array of tough and uncompromising editors who would do nothing else.

Mike Robinson at Panorama takes on a string of vested interests and hostile governments to get at the real stories; Kevin Marsh at Today is well-known for his no-nonsense independence; Peter Barron at Newsnight has a strong track-record of going after stories that are "too difficult" for other programmes or organisations.

People make their way down Canal Street in New Orleans, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
In public the coverage was defended, but in-house discussions have left many journalists with the clear impression that in future they must tread more carefully
John Kampfner
Editor, New Statesman
Surely even John Kampfner wouldn't argue that these editors are push-overs.

I have direct involvement in all of our coverage, including the EU and the Middle East. Viewers would be quite shocked at the kinds of pressure and heavy lobbying we are subjected to from lobby groups in both these areas.

There are concerted write-ins every few weeks. Quite rightly, we have to account for our decisions and our coverage and be sure we're fair and balanced.

Yet how Kampfner can argue that the appointment of Jeremy Bowen and Mark Mardell as Middle East and Europe editors is somehow going to soften our approach or pander to one side or another is beyond me.

They have the credibility, the pedigree and the toughness to do quite the opposite and reinforce our confidence in our reporting, whatever the lobbying.


On John Kampfner's Katrina comments; this seems finally to have blown his mind. Matt Frei, Gavin Hewitt, Ben Brown and the rest of the team reported what they saw.

They were horrified. They raised questions that needed answering as President Bush later acknowledged.

So Tony Blair didn't like the coverage much nor did Rupert Murdoch.

Kevin Bakhurst
I was encouraged to be independent, hard-hitting and robust.
Kevin Bakhurst
Editor, Ten O'Clock News

There was never anything but unwavering support from Helen Boaden, Mark Thompson, Mark Byford and all the other bosses. We knew the questions we asked were fair if hard-hitting and there was no hesitation in their backing.

John Kampfner's notion that somehow in future we feel we'll have to be more careful is simply fanciful.

I could go on disputing the article's inaccuracies about our journalism point by point.

When I came into this job two years ago, almost my first job was to cover the outcome of the Hutton Inquiry. I was encouraged to be independent, hard-hitting and robust.

During the General Election, we were attacked by Labour and the Conservatives continually. Some attacks were public, others private. The response was never anything but robust.

We have asked hard questions internationally of the Sudanese government in Darfur; of the government in Niger; of the US response to Katrina. We have upset most vested interests and lobby groups at times by our reporting of Europe, Iraq and the Middle East.

But the truth hurts. That is what we are determined to deliver. Whatever John Kampfner may say, that's what we'll strive to do and we're still not afraid.

Not "broken, beaten or cowed"
10 Oct 05 |  Notes
Ten defends Jackson coverage
15 Jun 05 |  Notes
Editor's instinct led to story
02 Aug 05 |  About BBC News

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