He deplored her standards. She was hurt and shocked. Now it's civil war at the BBC

MICHAEL STREETER

Civil war has broken out in the BBC over Esther Rantzen and her public row with the Panorama reporter, John Ware, about journalistic standards.

Senior staff are dismayed that publicity surrounding the dispute is, in the words of one source, "getting completely out of hand ... There is a civil war and it's one in which some cannons are being fired underground. Some of the things going on - memos leaked to the press, high-profile interviews and colleagues questioning people about their private life - are way over the top. The tragedy is that the important issues have been lost."

The initial dispute started over a newspaper article by Mr Ware attacking an edition of The Rantzen Report which had criticised the lack of care in the British Home and Hospital for Incurables in south London.

It focused on one patient, Ian Parker, and with the use of a hidden camera purported to show that he was left in a room to vegetate rather than being taken outside for stimulation.

Mr Ware said the programme failed to prove this central allegation and accused it of "sloppy and misleading" reporting and of having the "potential for seriously damaging the BBC's reputation for fair-minded journalism".

Ms Rantzen was "hurt and shocked" by the attack, which amounted to a "perversion of the truth, a twisting of the facts". In The Independent she said: "I have been described ... as a tabloid journalist. If this means I make populist, accessible, programmes, it is a label I am proud to wear."

The BBC's director-general, John Birt, ordered an inquiry into the television episode and the article and a separate investigation into an allegation that Mr Ware had deliberately misled a witness while compiling his article, which he denies.

Battle lines have been drawn between those in the features department, who produce The Rantzen Report, and news and current affairs. A news source said: "What John Ware said about journalistic standards and the fear of television distorting reality needed to be said."

Some sources believe there has been an attempt to avoid journalistic arguments and concentrate on "irrelevant" details, including Mr Ware's private life. Parts of a memo outlining the presenter's arguments were leaked to a newspaper, a leak publicly disowned by Ms Rantzen. The memo contains a claim by Ms Rantzen that Mr Ware failed to disclose a personal interest in his report, namely his friendship with a woman reporter whose mother works at the south London home.

The Independent has also discovered that in the last of a series of memos, Ms Rantzen personally demanded from Mr Ware confirmation of the friendship by 2.30pm. It is claimed that within an hour of the "deadline" on 30 August, tabloid journalists rang a future boss of the woman reporter, asking about the relationship.

The next day, an interview with Ms Rantzen appeared in the same paper in which she said: "I think [Mr Ware] is motivated by a profound dislike of me and my work." Mr Ware, who refused to answer her questions, is believed to have told BBC bosses he wrote the article because of concern about journalistic standards and was not motivated by the friendship.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why