BBC chief resigns over report involving Blair's communications director

LONDON: Following the report by Lord Hutton of the events and circumstances leading up to the suicide of British weapons expert Dr. David Kelly, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies has resigned effective immediately.

LONDON: Following the report by Lord Hutton of the events and circumstances leading up to the suicide of British weapons expert Dr. David Kelly, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies has resigned effective immediately.

BBC on-air personality Andrew Gilligan reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell "sexed up" the British government's dossier on Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities, including the now infamous allegation that Iraq had the means to deploy such weapons in as little as 45 minutes. Gilligan reported that the government knew that this statement was incorrect; Kelly was Gilligan's then-unnamed source. But the Hutton report released at the high court in London today concluded that Gilligan's claim of the dossier being "sexed up" was a "grave allegation" for which he had no proof. Regardless of whether the 45-minute claim is at some point proven false, Hutton's report contended that it was based on the best available intelligence at the time, and that no "dishonourable, duplicitous, underhand strategy" was undertaken by Blair to support the cause to go to war. The BBC had stood by Gilligan in the interest of protecting the organization's independence, as the BBC is funded primarily by UK citizens purchasing television licenses. But Hutton's report concluded that the BBC's desire to protect its independent status was not a legitimate excuse for the organization's failure to investigate complaints lodged by Campbell and 10 Downing Street about Gilligan's reporting. The Hutton inquiry further concluded that the BBC management failed to see the difference between Gilligan's notes and what he actually reported. Hutton went on to say that the "BBC editorial system was 'defective,'" and that "BBC management failed to appreciate that Gilligan's notes did not support the most serious of his allegations." In the announcement of his resignation, Davies said the leader of an organization should take responsibility for its actions. As for the Kelly suicide itself, Hutton concluded that Kelly indeed took his own life, but that he didn't realize "the gravity of the situation he would create by discussing intelligence matters with Andrew Gilligan." The report added, "No one was at fault for not contemplating that Dr. Kelly would take his own life," though the report did criticize the Ministry of Defence for not alerting Kelly beforehand that his name would be released. BBC director general Greg Dyke apologized on behalf of the organization for the errors in Gilligan's report, and highlighted recent changes in editorial procedures. But Campbell, who lost his job at 10 Downing Street over the matter, told a news conference, "If the government had faced the level of criticisms which today Lord Hutton's report has directed at the BBC, there would have been resignations by now, several resignations at several levels." He added, "What the report shows very clearly is the prime minister told the truth, the government told the truth, I told the truth. The BBC, from the chairman and the director general on down, did not." Hutton's report has put the BBC in a reputational quandary, as its viewer-funded independence was designed to guarantee fair, accurate reporting. "Let's just hope it shakes up the BBC to be more the type of broadcaster they used to be," wrote a viewer on the BBC's website. Update
  • BBC director general Greg Dyke resigned the day after this story was filed.

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