CB: But I do deny it. I think you're mistaking a very inquisitorial style for a parti pris position by the inquisitor. I genuinely think that isn't the case. It was Today that, with all its flaws, exposed the government's sexing up of the Iraq dossier — and this is an allegedly liberal, left-leaning organisation.
CM: But that's a perfect example of what I'm talking about — it did it from a left-liberal position. It had grossly inflated Blair as a hero when he came in because he was supposed to represent a left-liberal government against a Tory government and it was bitterly against the Iraq war for normal left-liberal reasons. So those of us who supported the war thought that the way the BBC covered the dossier, and the way it attempted to undermine the government by attacking it in this respect, was outrageous. And it did it from a left liberal position.
CB: I don't think that's right. Today was trying to find out what had actually happened. And what had actually happened was egregious interference with that dossier, and you couldn't support that however much you supported the war. At the time, I supported the war. I no longer do, but I still think the BBC did an outstanding job in pointing out the very flawed basis on which it turned out we'd gone into it.
CM: What was very clear was that they were out to get the government because they were against the Iraq war. And it went on and on, and that's why quite rightly [Greg] Dyke had to go, and the Hutton report [on the BBC and the Iraq war] did its work.
CB: The Hutton report was a complete whitewash!
CM: I don't agree with that. My point, the dossier point, is that it's an absolutely classic example of the BBC imposing its left-liberal views on the news agenda.
CB: That simply demonstrates that you're always going to see whatever the BBC does through a rather strange set of lenses.
CM: But do you really think there's nothing in this? The burden of my case is not only political bias. That's why I'm acting on the basis of Ross. But nevertheless do you really think it is pure fantasy that it's the conservative commentators in newspapers who are more worried about the BBC than, say, the Guardian? Are they just completely wrong?
CB: The Guardian is frequently worried about the BBC.
CM: Surely, Christopher, this is silly. The Guardian is essentially trying to defend the BBC. Papers like the Mail or the Telegraph or the Sunday Times are much more critical, and that reflects the political views which tend to be reflected by the BBC.
DJ: Is it the case that the licence fee, the quasi-monopolistic funding system that we have, has created an institutional culture at the BBC which is monolithic and over-mighty, as for example James Murdoch has suggested recently, at Edinburgh? Is Charles completely wrong to see this as rather sinister — the word James Murdoch used was "chilling"?
CB: I'm a good deal more chilled by James Murdoch than I am by the BBC. I think that his MacTaggart lecture was very poor and ill thought-out. An organisation that kicked the BBC off the Star satellite in order to please the Chinese, and failed to publish Chris Patten's memoirs for the same reason, was a very odd source for concern about the BBC as a state-sponsored monopoly of news.
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