Letter: To be interviewed on "Panorama"

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The Independent Online
From Mr Steve Hewlett

Sir: These are the facts behind Donald Macintyre's article "BBC is accused of giving in to Tories" (30 March). Both [Panorama deputy editor] Nick Robinson's memo and John Major's acceptance of our bid [to interview him] predated Jonathan Aitken's speech last Saturday attacking the BBC.

There has been nothing different in the planning of this interview to any other. Panorama has had this bid to interview Mr Major since last December. The bid was last renewed three weeks ago. Downing Street replied last week to the managing director of news and current affairs, Tony Hall, as he had most recently been in touch. After that initial conversation, all planning has been with the Panorama team. No conditions have been agreed, no conditions have been asked for.

The BBC is the one place where extended interviews with leading politicians remain a national event. No broadcast or newspaper journalist would pass up such an interview with the Prime Minister. The interview is in itself a major news story at a critical time, which is the hallmark of BBC journalism.

The memo featured in your article was written in considering how to ensure that the BBC is fair, and is seen to be fair, across the whole range of our coverage. As always, we will ensure that all parties are fairly represented in the course of the election campaign.

It is inevitable that we will be criticised by one party or another. All that matters is that our journalists ask demanding questions of all parties across all our programmes. This we will continue to do.

Yours faithfully,




BBC News and Current Affairs

London, W12

30 March