Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC: Confrontation with Campbell was a mistake

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Indy Politics

Greg Dyke acknowledged that the BBC had lessons to learn from the David Kelly affair yesterday, as he announced a wide-ranging review of the way the corporation handles its most controversial reports.

The BBC director general said he had ordered the first broadcasts of controversial items to be fully scripted. The corporation was reviewing the use of unscripted "two-way" interviews between presenters and reporters, such as the report by Andrew Gilligan on Radio 4'sToday programme, which first claimed the Government had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons.

Mr Dyke said the corporation would also review its producer guidelines on the handling of anonymous sources and the way they are described by reporters.

In a statement at the end of his hour-long evidence to the Hutton inquiry, he said: "What the processes of the last few weeks have certainly exposed is that politics and journalism are far from exact sciences.

"The forensic examination really of the events of May, June and July has revealed I think areas where in hindsight we would have, we might have, behaved differently. We might have done things differently. Obviously we should learn from that." Mr Dyke described as "not acceptable" Mr Gilligan's e-mails to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, suggesting questions for Dr Kelly and naming the scientist as the source of a report by Susan Watts, the science editor of Newsnight. He said: "I think we have to say this is not acceptable. It is not an acceptable e-mail to send to members of the committee."

Mr Dyke also said he now believed he should have stepped back from the row between the BBC and Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy, and referred the dispute to the BBC's complaints department.

Questioned by James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, Mr Dyke said Mr Campbell had made "a pretty ferocious attack" on the BBC in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in June.

He said: "An attack of this sort of scale from the Government's director of strategy and communications was pretty near unprecedented, I would have thought."

Mr Dyke added: "He was accusing us of lying, saying that parts of the BBC had run an agenda against the war. These were very serious charges to make against a broadcasting organisation. He said we had effectively accused the Prime Minister of lying, which Richard Sambrook said was almost impossible to construe from what we had said."

Mr Dyke told how he cleared his diary to help Mr Sambrook, the BBC director of news, reply to detailed questions put down in a letter from Mr Campbell after his appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He said: "When I look back at that day, I would like to think that if I was there today I would have stopped and said, 'We are in danger here of trying to reply too quickly because we are trying to reply on Alastair Campbell's timetable'.

"And I would like to think that when I look back I would have said, 'Let's stop, let's just say that we are not going to reply and let's pass it to the Programme Complaints Unit for a full investigation of this whole issue'. That's what I would like. Hindsight is a wonderful thing."

He added: "I thought there was a significant attack going on to the BBC that I think had been pre-planned."

Ben Russell