John Simpson spoils for battle on home front

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Distinguished BBC war correspondent John Simpson has put himself in the line of fire on the home front, with outspoken attacks on the corporation's director-general, John Birt, former colleague Martin Bell and "good news" fan Martyn Lewis.

Simpson, 53 (right), launched his forthright salvos in the BBC's biggest- selling publication, Radio Times, published today. He joked that, apart from Libya's Gaddafi, it was getting difficult to find a good dictator these days. "You have to visit weird parts of the world to find them - like Television Centre and Broadcasting House.

"The heads of giant corporations can be just as loopy - it's power and the feeling they're always right."

Martin Bell, now the independent MP for Tatton, was wrong to crusade for "involved" reporting on his return from Bosnia, Simpson said. "Martin Bell is talking nonsense and he knows it. He was one of the most objective journalists."

He added: "I'm sick of the 'I'm going to tell you everything about me and what I think' school of journalism. You don't watch the BBC for polemic."

But Simpson also condemned Martyn Lewis's "good news" campaign. "That's so silly. There's no good news and bad news, just news," he scoffed.

It was "amusing" that the Prince of Wales and John Major supported Lewis, he said. "You can't blame them. Whenever you switched on all you saw was another one of their disasters."

He feared the leaked BBC report Reflecting The World, which suggested popular presenters like Ulrika Jonsson were needed to make unpopular foreign issues more palatable, was close to the mark.

"It's true. That's the trouble. Viewers want bimboys and bimbettes. Who wants to see Martyn Lewis? I don't."

Simpson does not fear his latest onslaught will have repercussions. "I've been in lots of trouble, and that means within the BBC as well as out."

A spokeswoman for BBC News said last night: "John Simpson is expressing his personal opinion in a lighthearted way."

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