Leveson Inquiry has momentous implications for free speech. But Mail dossier raises disturbing questions about the influence of ‘people who know best’
SPECIAL INVESTIGATION By Richard Pendlebury
PUBLISHED: 19:03 EST, 15 November 2012 | UPDATED: 09:32 EST, 16 November 2012
This has been an extraordinary week for the BBC as it tears itself apart over one of the most catastrophic journalistic errors of modern times.
False allegations of paedophilia against an elderly Tory Party grandee have led to the resignation of the Director-General, the possible demise of the flagship Newsnight programme, the paying out of substantial libel damages and, worst of all, perhaps a shattering blow to BBC News’s reputation for integrity.
How could this happen? Why did no one carry out ‘basic journalistic checking’ of facts? Why weren’t those ‘facts’ put to the other side — the first rule of journalism?
We don’t know, but we do know that behind this farrago is the work of a self-regarding body which calls itself the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), the organisation that took their ‘McAlpine exclusive’ to the BBC and whose managing editor resigned after gleefully tweeting about being ready to out a politician who was a paedophile.
In its recent submission to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, the BIJ declared that its ‘output and editorial processes’ would ‘be a masterclass, a gold standard for evidence-based journalism … journalism of an outstanding kind.’
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- Solved, the mystery of the money chest: How David Bell sits on the charity bankrolling his own campaign
- State controls on Press would be a green light to tyrants, says top MP
- Peer’s revenge over Twitter slurs: McAlpine will sue internet gossips as BBC pays him £185,000 damages following Newsnight report
- Adviser to Leveson press inquiry is a trustee of the self-styled investigative bureau behind McAlpine Newsnight fiasco
- The people who know best: Dark arts and links with the Masters of Spin…
- What a very small world: Why are so many figures in the Leveson Inquiry connected to New Labour’s favourite media quango Ofcom?
To describe this as hubris would be an understatement.
And at the centre of the story is an obscure but immensely well-connected member of Britain’s liberal Establishment, Sir David Bell, one of five BIJ trustees.
As we shall see in this Special Mail Investigation, Bell’s campaign, which began almost a decade ago, to control Britain’s raucous popular press and, in the process, promote what he regards as ethical journalism, has had momentous consequences.