Greg Dyke On Broadcasting

The BBC should never give in to pressure - or even be seen to

Sharon has never hidden his intense dislike of Guerin or the BBC's reporting of the Middle East and Guerin was recently accused of being "anti-semitic" and of "identifying with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups" by a former Israeli minister.

At the very least the BBC should have foreseen the suspicions that would arise from the two events - Thompson's visit and Guerin's departure - and separated them by several months. As it is, the timing of the announcement to move Guerin inevitably raises the question of how much pressure the Israeli Government put on the BBC, which in turn allows some to question the BBC's impartiality.

In my time at the BBC the two biggest areas of complaint about our news coverage - ignoring the never ending whinges from the Iain Duncan Smith-led Tory Party that they were not being taken seriously enough - were about our coverage of Europe and our coverage of Israel. In both cases the complaints came from groups who believed passionately in their causes and had convinced themselves that the BBC was, in their respective areas, institutionally pro-European and institutionally anti-Israeli. I would argue passionately that neither was true.

The people who complained about the BBC's coverage of Israel were almost entirely Jewish and there was some evidence that their campaign against the BBC was being "encouraged" by the Israeli Embassy in London. There was no doubt that Prime Minister Sharon put enormous pressure on his ambassador in Britain to try to force the BBC to change its coverage to make it more pro-Israeli.

We investigated many of the complaints and most of the time found our reporting had been totally fair. Of course the pro-Israeli lobby didn't accept that but then they had a different agenda. The problem with reporting the Middle East, as with reporting so many conflicts, is that both sides are adamant they are right. As I explained to a meeting at a north London synagogue recently, the BBC's role was to try to report all sides in the Middle East conflict "fairly", which was not what they or the Israeli Government wanted to hear.

But the point is that the passionate advocates of a particular view on any issue are not "impartial" which is why their allegations against journalists who are doing their best to be fair always have to be dealt with seriously but also with a degree of scepticism.

The argument I used with both the Euro-sceptics and the pro-Israel lobby was the same as the one I used with Tony Blair during the run up to the Iraq War. Given their passionately held views how could they possibly be the judge of impartiality? They were in no way objective.

One prominent Jew who did not believe the BBC was biased against Israel was the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I invited him to speak to a management group at the BBC one morning and he would have none of the argument that the BBC was doing anything other than trying to report a difficult situation fairly. But he wasn't typical amongst the Jewish community in Britain.

I once went to receive an award for the BBC's coverage of the first ever Holocaust Day from a prominent Jewish organisation and was told, in no uncertain terms, that the award was for our coverage of that event only. I shrugged, accepted the award and thought to myself "Well they would say that wouldn't they?"

No-one summed up the whole position better than the BBC's World Affairs editor John Simpson when he wrote that in recent times the BBC has reported a series of conflicts as fairly as it could. On every occasion the Government of the day had tried to bully the BBC into supporting a particular line and on each occasion the BBC had resisted. "Governments have as much right as anyone to put pressure on the BBC; it's only a problem if the BBC caves in." The same applies to the Israeli Government.

With Friends Reunited like these, who needs enemies?

One former senior executive of ITV wouldn't have been too pleased last week when ITV announced that it had bought the Friends Reunited website. When I saw this particular former executive recently I commiserated that his marriage had broken up, and out of politeness I asked him what had happened. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he was a victim of "fucking Friends Reunited".

Of course he's not the only one. There are literally hundreds of stories around of people going to the school reunion, or getting reconnected through Friends Reunited, only to rediscover their boyfriend or girlfriend of many years before, and the two of them deciding to get together. It's becoming a classic story of the baby boomer generation.

All of which makes you wonder what sort of programmes ITV chief executive Charles Allen was referring to when he said that the acquisition of Friends Reunited would result in the creation of an exciting new programme for ITV which would be the modern-dayBlind Date.

In the world of reality television no one is going to be interested in a bunch of 50-year-olds meeting up at the school reunion and then nothing happening, so it seems we can look forward to a new Saturday night show in which we all have to guess who will have an illicit affair with whom and, as a result, abandon their current partner back home. Maybe they could call the show Surprise Surprise.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor