The International Federation of Journalists today warns that continued attacks on the BBC following the official report on the Kelly affair could undermine efforts to create genuinely public service broadcasting systems in other countries.
“The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster with an unsurpassed reputation for independent news coverage untainted by political interference,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
“Politicians and others in the UK must not use the Kelly affair to unravel the structures for editorial independence that have protected the BBC over the years, this will only encourage recalcitrant governments elsewhere to keep their hands on the controls of state-funded broadcasting systems.”
Instead, the IFJ says that the British Government “must move quickly to repair the damage to the BBC caused by recent events.”
The IFJ says that the Blair government should tone down its hostility to the BBC over its fiercely independent coverage of the Iraq War, which has angered senior officials. The IFJ says this was behind the ferocious assault on the corporation following the controversial early morning report by Andrew Gilligan that was criticised this week in the inquiry carried out by Lord Hutton into the death of a civil servant, David Kelly, who killed himself after his identity was revealed as the source for Gilligan’s reports.
“This was one report where the BBC has to learn lessons and make sure similar problems don’t arise in future,” said White.
The IFJ has launched an international campaign in support of public service broadcasting and is calling for national broadcasters funded from public money to be established in all democratic states, particularly in regions like the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe where, until a decade ago, broadcasting was under tight government controls.
“In most former communist countries there has been no transition to genuinely public broadcasting. Governments still exercise forms of administration that undermine editorial independence,” said White. Journalists and broadcasters in these countries and some others in Europe, such as Spain, look to the BBC, and others such as ARD and WDR in Germany, as role models of quality and independent journalism says the IFJ.
“The BBC has made mistakes, but there is a danger of these attacks sparking a witch-hunt against public service broadcasting at a time when private media are clamouring for deregulation and the break-up of public media institutions,” said White.
The IFJ is supporting its affiliate in the UK, the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland, which is defending BBC journalists from calls for dismissals and an internal shake-up in the wake of the Kelly affair.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries