'Gilligan was 95% correct'

A week on, and it is time for a considered verdict. Tim Luckhurst consults leading figures on Lord Hutton, Andrew Gilligan and the fallout at the BBC

SIR BERNARD INGHAM
Former press secretary to Margaret Thatcher

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

Unprintable.

Do you still trust the BBC?

I have no reason not to trust the BBC.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

Gilligan got it broadly right, but wrong in the detail.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

I don't think Dyke and Davies should have been appointed in the first place because of their obvious Labour cronyism. There have been two too many resignations already but it does at least illustrate that honour resides with the BBC at the moment.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

Hard cases make very bad law. The implications of Lord Hutton's report should have no effect on the BBC or any other news-gathering organisation.

ANDREW NEIL
Editor-in-chief, Scotsman Publications and The Business

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

Largely right about the BBC, if somewhat harsh (his criticisms required some caveats). But he has come to conclusions about the Government which fly in the face of his own evidence.

Do you still trust the BBC?

Yes.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

There was a kernel of a strong story - the dossier had been compiled in a strange way and contained many dodgy allegations - but it was flammed up unnecessarily and that led to its undoing.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

No. To lose a chairman and a CEO is more than enough.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

They should have none. But it depends on the vindictiveness of ministers and MPs.

SUE MACGREGOR
Former presenter, Today programme

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

I think the conclusions Lord Hutton came to were quite extraordinary, considering the compelling evidence of pressure from No10 to "harden up" the dossier wording of WMD danger. The BBC deserves blame, yes, for carelessness and indeed complacency in some quarters. But it does not deserve to be hung out to dry.

Do you still trust the BBC?

Yes, I do, almost all the time. It has a remarkable record of good journalism. Every single part of our big media world makes mistakes. Considering the enormous range of its output, the BBC is usually remarkably accurate and fair.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

It was carelessly worded and not well backed up. A pity, because he was on to a Big Thing.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

Probably not. Andrew Gilligan has now done the sensible thing. You could argue that others in management might have considered their position and done what he has done, and done it immediately, but I think it's now time to look ahead.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

Tessa Jowell, while sounding emollient, has said that the charter review of 2006 will take the Hutton findings into account. Let us hope that between now and then the BBC does not lose its nerve. It must continue to pursue a policy of robust journalism and well-researched investigative stories.

ROD LIDDLE
Former editor, Today programme

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

Entirely in keeping with previous government inquiries headed by Law Lords - but that shouldn't deflect us from being outraged at its purblind exoneration of the Government.

Do you still trust the BBC?

For the moment, but not if [acting chairman] Lord Ryder's influence is allowed to spread within the corporation.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

It was 95 per cent correct. It was an important story in the public interest.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

There have been three too many already.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

Absolutely none. And it is constitutionally corrupt of the Government to link the two issues.

CHRIS BRYANT MP
Labour member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

Sober, considered and spot on.

Do you still trust the BBC?

Mostly, but like the rest of us, it does get things wrong sometimes.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

It was so exaggerated, hyped up, inaccurate and careless as to be a lie.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

No.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

We need a strong, robust and well-financed BBC with governors who are as independent from the board of managers as they are from the government.

ROGER ALTON
Editor, The Observer

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

I was surprised it was so one-sided. I think No10 would have preferred Hutton to land a blow as the findings can too easily be portrayed as a "whitewash" - a portrayal that could, and maybe already has, rebound on the Government. They would have preferred a 5-2 win, if you like, rather than 15-0.

Do you still trust the BBC?

Come off it... of course. The BBC is much more than one reporter on the Today show. It would be quite absurd to suggest that thousands of hours of output could be undermined by that one event.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's original story?

On the main issues, the original story was clearly wrong. There was no evidence the Government inserted the 45-minute claim knowing it to be wrong. The general tenor, however, questioning claims about the extent of Iraq's WMDs was perfectly legitimate, as was being reflected in press reports at the time.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

No. In the end scalp-taking doesn't help the BBC to solve the editorial management and governance issues it has to face. On the other hand, the governors themselves, especially Richard Ryder, should maybe spend a few quiet moments considering whether they have acted in the best interests of a robust BBC.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

Hutton has raised serious points about the role of the governors within the BBC. The present system of regulation by the governors has been shown to be inadequate, and for the good of the corporation itself should be changed. Beyond that, the Government should refrain from using Hutton as a stick to beat the BBC.

PETER HOBDAY
Former presenter, Today

What is your opinion of Lord Hutton's verdict?

It is the sort of verdict one would expect from a man so deeply versed in the law. He was operating to a higher standard of proof than journalists require. Allegations based on vague impressions of what someone thinks somebody else might believe would not be admissible in court.

Do you still trust the BBC?

Yes. I do.

What is your view of Andrew Gilligan's

original story?

He missed a better story - that some people in the security services were getting worried. In the context of the time, and the BBC's obsession with breaking news, I think he was pushed into a conclusion that would be a lead for the programme.

Should there be further resignations at the BBC?

Since the top men have gone, those with direct line responsibility should consider their positions seriously. Greater love hath no BBC executive than to lay down the life of his director general for his friends.

What effect should Lord Hutton's conclusions have on BBC licence-fee negotiations?

I don't think it should have any effect, but it will.

'GREG DYKE SHOULD STILL BE RUNNING THE BBC'

By Lucy Rouse

I am no friend of Greg Dyke's. I became editor of the television industry's weekly magazine, Broadcast, shortly before he took over as DG. Dyke and I had a serious falling-out over a series of front-page stories about the future of the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. Gavyn Davies, then merely an adviser rather than chairman of the BBC, had suggested it should be partly privatised. Some in the industry said there was disagreement within the BBC about which way to jump, and we ran the story.

Dyke was incandescent and wrote to me personally saying that until Broadcast improved its journalism he would ban all copies from Broadcasting House. We duly lost a few hundred subscriptions and my publisher was not pleased.

As with all these things, bridges were rebuilt over time, although my own relations with Dyke only really improved when I left Broadcast. But despite our history, and my misgivings about some of Dyke's time at the BBC, I was sorry to see him go. Dyke is a great leader, and it felt shameful to watch him shout a resignation speech from a huddle on the pavement of Portland Place.

The events of last week demonstrated beyond any doubt that the BBC is ultimately accountable to the Prime Minister of the day and the pawns he has at his disposal, in this case the services of a law lord and the suspicion of behind-the-arras advice from the former BBC director general John Birt.

Davies's resignation as chairman showed the chairman taking responsibility for executive failings. Meanwhile, Tony Blair, the corporation's ultimate regulator, got the total surrender he wanted.

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