Richard Sambrook: Reports sometimes lacking in subtlety

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Indy Politics

Andrew Gilligan is a reporter who "painted in primary colours" and there were doubts on the "nuance and subtlety" of his presentation, according to the BBC's director of news.

Richard Sambrook said: "My view for some time would be that Andrew Gilligan is extremely good at finding out information but there are sometimes questions of nuance and subtlety in how he presents it, which are not all that they should be." The inquiry heard that Mr Sambrook told the corporation's board of governors Mr Gilligan was someone who "paints in primary colours rather than something more subtle".

In his live report on Radio 4's Today programme at 6.07am on 29 May Mr Gilligan claimed the assertion that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction "within 45 minutes" had been inserted into the Government's dossier on Iraq when it was known to be probably incorrect.

Lord Hutton has already seen an e-mail from Kevin Marsh, the editor of the Today programme, in which he said the report was "a good piece of investigative journalism, marred by flawed reporting".

Yesterday Mr Sambrook told the inquiry that if he had been aware of the content of the unscripted report in advance it would have been "essential" to refer it to the corporation's lawyers.

He added: "I think it is clear that any report which sets out a set of serious allegations should be carefully scripted in advance."

Mr Sambrook echoed Greg Dyke, the BBC's director general, who admitted on Monday that the corporation had lessons to learn from the affair. He also acknowledged that the Downing Street press office should have been given advance notice of the report before it was broadcast.

Asked about Mr Gilligan's e-mails to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he said he had not authorised them. He continued: "I think it was an improper e-mail to have sent and I do not think it would be right under any circumstances. I appreciate that Mr Gilligan felt himself to be under a great deal of pressure and may have made a misjudgement in those circumstances, but I certainly was not aware of it and I do not believe anybody within the BBC was aware of it or could have authorised it."

Mr Sambrook also emphatically denied telling a reporter from The Times that Mr Gilligan's source was in Iraq.

Ben Russell