Top BBC strategist quits after inquiry into leak of 6 Music closure plans

Ian Burrell,Media Editor
Wednesday 28 April 2010 00:00
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A senior BBC strategist has left the corporation following a high-level internal investigation into the leaking of a confidential report mapping out the future of the organisation, including the closure of the digital radio station 6 Music.

The investigation was ordered by the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, following the leak in February of a draft version of a BBC Strategic Review drawn up by John Tate, the corporation's director of policy and strategy, which was in very limited circulation within the corporation.

In a statement to The Independent last night the BBC said: "We can confirm than an investigation has been satisfactorily concluded and that an individual has now left the BBC."

The corporation has chosen not to identify the individual who, according to some BBC colleagues, was guilty of a "gross breach of trust" in leaking the document to The Times, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp business which has been campaigning for the BBC to be cut in size.

Last August, Mr Murdoch's son James who, as News Corp's CEO for Europe and Asia, is in charge of The Times, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival that the BBC was engaged in a "chilling" land grab within the British media.

There was speculation that the leak had been officially sanctioned from high within the BBC in order to fend off criticisms from the Right-wing press and the Conservatives, who were at that time well ahead in the polls and expected to win a clear majority at the election.

The Tories had widely hinted that they would be looking to significantly reduce the scale of the BBC. Some commentators suggested that BBC management selected 6 Music for possible closure precisely because they realised its audience was likely to be vociferous in its disapproval and well-organised in protest, thus highlighting the value of the BBC's services in general.

But the revelation that the leak was an unauthorised and deliberate act by a rogue employee indicates that the disclosure of the draft document was not sanctioned by the corporation's communications department.

The timing of the emergence of the draft Strategic Review created problems for senior management because the publication of the final document, which had not yet been signed off, had to be rapidly brought forward. By then a noisy public campaign was already under way to overturn the proposed axing of 6 Music.

Other criticisms were voiced by supporters of the BBC Asian Network service, which was also earmarked for closure. The findings of the review are the subject of a consultation period which concludes on 25 May.

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