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Injunction talk

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Jamie Donald | 16:21 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

I wondered if we were broadcasting nonsense on The Daily Politics this morning. I woke to learn from the Guardian that police were investigating whether Lord Levy, the prime minister's fundraiser, had urged Ruth Turner, the prime minister's director of external relations, to modify information that might have been of interest to Scotland Yard's cash for honours inquiry.

The Daily Politics logoWas this not the story that for three days the BBC had been referring to but not allowed to report? Could we not on the programme today at last put some bones and flesh on the story?

I then decided I couldn't. The BBC's senior legal and management teams had some very clear advice. Of course we could say that the Guardian had printed a story, but if we reported the content we would fall foul of the very strict injunction on the BBC. The advice was also not to connect the Guardian story with the BBC story for fear of falling foul of the same injunction.

Unfortunately we couldn't explain the terms of our own injunctions. And it would be better not to report that the BBC was, that morning, asking for our injunction to be lifted or varied.

So we said what I thought we could. James Landale told Andrew Neil on air that the Guardian had a jolly good story which it had printed, but that he couldn't tell us about. And then he told Andrew the BBC had a separate jolly good story involving Ruth Turner and Lord Levy. And er... that was it, because of all the legal complications. Then James called the whole thing Kafkaesque. My hero.

There were two more turns of the knife. Had you been watching Sky News when James and Andrew were talking, you would have seen Sky merrily reporting the full details of the Guardian allegations, discussing them with all and sundry, and reporting the just released and robust denials from Lord Levy.

And to top it off, the injunction against the BBC was lifted just as we came off air, allowing Nick Robinson suddenly to report in full his story from Friday on News 24... about 12 hours after the Guardian.

Had I got this completely wrong? Maybe. Did the viewers understand what on earth we were on about? I suspect not. So should we have mentioned the story on the programme at all, given the limitations? Debatable, but I thought so. Was it a great day for the programme? You decide. But hats off to the Guardian.

Comments

So the BBC where the only people injuncted from reporting the story? I though injunctions where meant to apply to all papers and broadcasters? Although it does raise the question of how you're meant to know you can't report it if you can't read the text of the injunction to know what you can't report. And I guess reporting on the text of the injunction is right out?

  • 2.
  • At 06:18 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

just wondering if there is a way we can be told how many other things the bbc are told not to report.

And are you given occasional guidelines as to how to report stuff

A completly pointless question as you will of course no doubt say that you have never been censored and are never influenced

thought i would ask though

  • 3.
  • At 07:48 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

Don't worry Jamie, I've been keeping an eye on News 24 today, and the most important thing happening in the world is clearly the birth of a baby rhino. So all this political stuff you couldn't report, it doesn't matter anyway.

Hope this makes you feel better.

  • 4.
  • At 09:47 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I think you did the 'right thing' as opposed to the expedient thing, which appears to be the route the Guardian took. Rusbridger doesn't really have a leg to stand on, other than 'Publish and be Damned'. Well fair enough - but then who was reporting how irresponsible the News of the World were in their use of phone 'taps' to get sensational scoops.

It looks far too much like stepping away from editorial independence and taking an overt political stance to overturn an injunction which was in the public interest as it covered a pending court case. Sky are completely shameless in any case and are far more concerned about 'getting it first' than 'getting it right'.

But then again, these people do have to keep the advertisers happy...

No, not hats off to the Guardian. They just reported your half-story too. To quote from the BBC website: "The BBC has not seen the document containing her concerns but has been told about it by more than one source." - i.e. you have some second hand unsubstantiated claims not backed up by hard evidence. I don't really see what the point is to this story. OK, if there weren't a police investigation going on, then it would be in the public interest to expose some possible doubts about Govt wrongdoings, but there is an investigation. This story potentially jeopordises the investigation and doesn't add anything. I really don't see what the BBC is so pleased about. If the police didn't have this document then give it to them and let them feed it into their enquiry; if they did then reporting it is unhelpful.
I am not a big fan of this Govt but I think the BBC has got way overexcited about a detail before we get to see the results of the police enquiry which is due out soon.

  • 6.
  • At 11:31 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • David Ballantine wrote:

To BBC:
Will you look at your editors blog page and observe which blogs have the most responses? Obviously by far without a doubt are the 9/11 topics. So how about more news, reporting, and investigation on 9/11. This is obviously what your viewers are most interested in. I challenge you to listen to your customers...

When I read things like this I wonder if the profession of journalism still isn't better off in the US than anywhere else, even as the corporations that own the companies cut the resources to the bone.

Then again, the US has been reporting one scandal after another that's traced back clearly to the White House and no one seems to really care much.

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