Saturday, July 14, 2007


If there was any doubt the BBC has been in danger of becoming the State broadcaster since the Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly, their promotion of Alistair Campbell’s Diaries wiped it right out this week.
Prostrating itself to plug the book, the Corporation not only devoted three prime time hours to it between Wednesday and Friday on BBC2 but there were further hours of interviews and discussion of it on Sunday AM with Andrew Marr, Newsnight, Newsnight Review, Today on Radio 4 and BBC 24’s Hardtalk.
The admirable John Humphrys apart, the sycophantic interviewers treated Campbell’s Hello style gossipy memoirs as if he had been a leading Cabinet Minister – not an ex hack who was and still is a lot smarter than any of them.
Perhaps the most telling moment in the coverage was when, in answer to an inane question from Hardtalk’s pious seeker after the truth, Stephen Sakur, Campbell replied: ‘I’m here to promote a book.’
What Campbell, a former journalist, understood better than anyone in a notoriously rough trade or the PR business was the envy, paranoia and insecurity which haunts so many journalists and how easy it is to buy, flatter and manipulate a journalist into writing what you want.
Though he got the reputation of being a ‘spinmeister,’ Campbell also understood that ‘objective’ is something of a sham word when used by journalists to describe their work and all publications put their own spin on stories. The difference in how papers report the same story says it all.
Campbell also knew and understood how to exploit the dangerous symbiotic relationship which exists between specialist journalists and those they write about in areas like politics and that many journalists are no longer reporters whose fearless raison d’etre is to represent the public in high places and have instead become members of the Establishment who see their jobs as conduits of its messages.
Though he got the reputation of bullying and threatening journalists, it was only half the story.
Far more powerful and seductive than giving someone a bawling out was Campbell’s ability to arrange an invitation for favoured hacks to dine at Chequers – like Andrew Marr and James Naughtie, the pompous presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme who on air identified himself with the Government during the last General Election campaign.
He says he was not the author of the words of the words ‘ferral beasts’ which Tony Blair used in his parting blast at the media.
Certainly, so far as Campbell is concerned, there are no ferral beasts at the BBC – just a cosy line of pussy cats purring to please him.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved

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