Magazine article The Spectator

The Sinister Reason Why the Murdoch Press Is Attacking the BBC

Magazine article The Spectator

The Sinister Reason Why the Murdoch Press Is Attacking the BBC

Article excerpt

One person I have been feeling a little sorry for over the past few days is Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph. His newspaper was a fervent supporter of the war against Iraq. I think we may say that it was motivated entirely by ideological concerns. There was no commercial benefit for the Telegraph in taking an aggressively pro-American line. Indeed, I believe many of its readers may have been disquieted. But the Telegraph never wavered. Before, during and after the war it has offered a strong case for taking on Saddam Hussein.

All Mr Moore's instincts of decency will have been aroused by the suicide of Dr David Kelly. In normal circumstances the paper would have cheerfully joined any posse hunting down the likes of Geoff Hoon, Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair. Mr Moore will have understood the depths to which this government has sunk. The trouble is that the Telegraph has castigated the BBC for what it regards as its subversive reporting of the war. Moreover, the newspaper shares the government's conviction that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction. On important questions of principle, therefore, the Daily Telegraph finds itself in the same camp as the government. If it were to attack Messrs Campbell, Hoon and Blair with full gusto, it would inevitably align itself with those anti-war forces which it has criticised, and risk damaging the war party which it has helped to lead.

To my way of thinking, the Telegraph has been mistaken in its strong espousal of war, and will probably be proved wrong about weapons of mass destruction. But no one could argue that its position has been ignoble. The same cannot be said of the Times over the past few days, or of its sister newspaper, the Sun. Like the Telegraph, both papers were enthusiastically in favour of the war. I do not impugn the motives of either of them. But since the death of Dr Kelly, they have slavishly promoted the government's case while looking around for any stick they can find with which to bash the BBC. It is very difficult to believe that they are animated purely by principle. There are also commercial considerations at work. I spy the influence of their proprietor, Rupert Murdoch.

Of course, there are fair-minded voices on the Times such as William Rees-Mogg and Simon Jenkins. But in recent days the news pages have been tendentious. The newspaper's political coverage is usually sympathetic to New Labour, and it was no surprise that the Times should have been one of the three titles which was led by the nose in some bizarre guessing game devised by the Ministry of Defence to the name of Dr Kelly. On Saturday, the day after his death, it was highly critical of the BBC. On an inside page the political reporter Tom Baldwin quoted friends of Alastair Campbell (aka Alastair Campbell) as saying that the Prime Minister's director of communications was 'genuinely shaken' and of the opinion that Dr Kelly's death showed that 'something has gone wrong with our political and media culture'. Mr Baldwin is a friend of Mr Campbell, who sometimes gives him stories. On Monday Mr Baldwin was in magisterial mood. 'The BBC,' he wrote, 'has a long and proud record of political impartiality but at times in this several-week row some BBC journalists have seemed to have abandoned objectivity.'

Unlike the Times, of course. On Monday its front-page headline was 'Relief for Blair as crisis engulfs the BBC'. On Tuesday its 'splash' asserted that divisions were emerging among BBC governors, a claim immediately denied by the BBC and not taken up by other newspapers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.