Why did the BBC apologise to the government in January 2004?

Speaking at a freedom of information tribunal, the colourful former director general of the BBC Greg Dyke said that way that the broadcaster had apologized to the government for its reporting on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was “embarrassing and unjustified”  “It was, he said, “a betrayal of what the BBC stood for”   

Dyke, supporting an application by The Guardian newspaper and open government campaigner Heather Brooke to have the minutes of the extraordinary meeting took took place almost immediately after the publication of the Hutton report which had been very critical BBC’s reporting.

The meeting had resulted in the dismissal of Mr. Dyke, a sycophantic and craven apology to the government, and the BBC’s then chairman Gavyn Davies tendering his resignation. 

Mr Dyke said he’d like to know how, after that meeting of governors, which took place on January 28 2004, the BBC’s acting chairman, Lord Ryder, on the very next day felt it necessary to apologise to the government.

“At some stage during that day [January 29] Lord Ryder stood up and made this rather embarrassing, as it turned out to be, apology on behalf of the BBC to the government,” he said.

“At some stage the governors took that decision to make that apology, it would be quite interesting to know when they made that decision.” 

 “Someone at some stage took that decision … they clearly cleared the statement with Downing Street before it was made. I thought at the time it was a betrayal of all the BBC stands for.”

For the past 18 months, the BBC has been refusing to publish the minutes of the 28th of January 2004 meeting on the grounds  that governors would feel uneasy about giving their true opinions at meetings if they believed the what they said, or were minuted as having said, would later be made public.

Mr. Dyke, supporting The Guardian, told the tribunal: “My argument would be that the governors’ minutes as a matter of course should not be public …..” 

“But we are talking about a unique day in the history of the BBC here, where the chairman resigned, where the director general was asked to resign by the board of governors and the board of governors took a decision to make an abject apology to the government the following day, an apology we later learned from the [later] Butler report [Butler report.pdf] was in no way justified.”

The hearing continues. Watch this space. It will be interesting to see whether or not the BBC is as lily-livered now as it was then. ____________________________________________________

P.S.

We have to ask ourselves what people who are afraid to have their opinions made publicare doing on the board of governors of the BBC in the first place. But that is another issue. 

P.P.S

Here’s how the the contentious apology was being reported on the BBC’s own website.

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