So, I was pilloried by The Thunderer on Monday - that's Stephen Pollard's column in the Times - for having such enthusiasm for Hezbollah that I must in fact be the leader of this organisation.
Quite a damning attack on a long-standing and relatively anonymous staffer steeped in the ethos of objectivity and fair play. An ethos perhaps not applicable to columnists who earn a living from being provocative; making waves.
But what to do? The news of this full-frontal attack reached me rather late in the day. After working in Television Centre most of the weekend, I headed off for the wilderness of the Brecon Beacons on Sunday evening, with my teenage son. Come Monday lunchtime, arriving at a hilltop that picked up a faint mobile phone signal, I learned of the damaging denunciation.
Andrew Marr and I agreed that since the piece was wrong in detail, as well as broad implication, a response was essential. He prepared a brief eloquent letter and I offered a more detailed lumbering explanation. An amalgam was eventually submitted to the Times letters page and appeared on Wednesday morning.
The programme on Sunday 23rd (which you can currently watch here) was not, as stated by Pollard, "mostly... given over to events in the Middle East". It was centred on a long interview with the deputy prime minister, the first live TV interview since his personal and political life imploded three months ago.
Attacks for being too tough or too soft on Prezza I anticipated. Masterminding Hezbollah was a surprise.
The sole interview with any player with a direct tie-in to the Middle East was with a minister in the Lebanese government. A brief interview with a woman who is not aligned with Hezbollah, whose husband was assassinated in a bombing she believes was associated with Syrian factions, and who was questioned by Marr about the culpability of Hezbollah for the mayhem now engulfing her country.
With Israeli troops massing on the border, the interview seemed entirely appropriate and was followed by a live link with the BBC's man in Jerusalem for an overview of the diplomatic manoeuvres and the Israeli government’s stated response to the British minister – just arrived – and the American minister – arriving shortly.
The previous weeks’s programme was rather more Middle East orientated. It featured a substantial interview with the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (watch it here), followed by a briefer interview with the former Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi (watch that here). And earlier in the month, the acting Israeli ambassador to London was interviewed on his own.
Zionist plots on these occasions? Don’t be absurd!
Pollard also lambasted us for the paper review. It started with the Middle East, as many papers did, but covered a host of other topics including domestic politics. The two reviewers were chosen to reflect different facets of UK politics, as they usually are. A former Tory MP and a current Labour MEP. In the minority of the review that was devoted to the Middle East, both indicated that they thought the Israeli response disproportionate. In an ideal world we would have two reviewers with differing views on this contentious subject. However the fact that these two distinguished figures both happen to share a perspective does not, surely, disbar them from comment.
The Beeb doesn’t always get it right and this blog is one forum for those of us charged with producing programmes to put our hands up and say “sorry”. Indeed it’s essential that we all consider carefully what we do, strive to follow the BBC guidelines and admit when we’ve got it wrong. I’m convinced, however, that the Pollard attack was unwarranted.
And I think that a visit to the Sunday AM website, which hosts transcripts of all the interviews - and a record of who appeared each week - will reassure most viewers that our record for fair play remains intact.