James Smart Lecture
by the invitation to give this annual lecture in memory of James Smart,
the first Chief Constable of my home city of Glasgow. If I may say so
it's typically generous of the capital city to host an occasion
in honour of one of Glasgow's most famous sons - giving the lie
to the rivalry between the two cities.
(primus inter pares)
One of my late colleagues,
Richard Francis, delivered this lecture almost 20 years ago, in 1982.
Since then change on many fronts - social, economic and technological
- has had a dramatic impact on the work of both police and broadcaster.
At the beginning of 1982
the UK had only three TV channels. But the first steps were being taken
which would lead to a technological revolution - a move from analogue
to digital technology - which means that 20 years later there is not
only the possibility of hundreds of new channels but also new types
of services which will change fundamentally the broadcasting landscape
and the role the broadcaster plays in society. As we move through this
period of dramatic, turbulent, change our aim is to ensure that the
principles of public service broadcasting endure in the new digital
Since its foundation
80 years ago the BBC has shaped the broadcasting industry in the UK.
It did so for the first 30 years as a monopoly supplier - it was the
broadcasting industry. For the next 30 it was part of what was called
the cosy duopoly - where commercial TV had a monopoly of TV advertising
and competed with the BBC only for the audiences attention. Not for
the source of funding. It was in that protected, closely regulated environment
that Britain's public service broadcasting system flourished.
John Reith's great
achievement as its founder was establishing the independence of the
BBC - independence from government - and linking its public funding,
through the licence fee, directly to its customers.
In return the BBC had
a duty of impartiality laid upon it - a duty that did not apply to newspapers.
That principle of impartiality, was underlined by the need to strive
for accuracy and fairness at all times.
As we've moved through
the 20th century to the 21st no one has improved on Reith's trinity
of aims for the BBC: to inform, educate and entertain.
Most of the challenging
areas of our work that relate to the police come under the headings
of information or perhaps education. But an important part of the entertainment
has been our portrayal of the police, especially in drama.
The strong portfolio
of drama based around the police in a way forms part of our social history
for more than forty years, from Dixon of Dock Green through to City
Central and Cops.
As each new series is
launched the broadcasters, writers, producers and actors take stock
and, since the programmes are meant to entertain their audience, as
well as inform and, perhaps, challenge - to assess the approach that
matches the audiences' current expectations; expectations that
have to be addressed if the series is to have a chance of success.
In short, any contemporary
series has to be believable.
Examining the police
drama series of the last 40 years or so tells you much about broadcasting
styles but they say something, too, about changing social attitudes
to the police and how the police wished themselves to be portrayed.
One piece of research
in the 1970s told us that the most famous policeman in history was not
Robert Peel, or any chief constable but a police constable - George
Dixon of Dock Green entertained
Saturday evening audiences from 1955 to 1976. An incredible record,
moving from the 50s, through the changing social trends of the 60s and
into the 70s - with a mix of homespun philosophy and public information
messages which preached reassurance to millions.
Police knew it was a
romantic unrealistic representation but there were few complaints about
that at the time. By and large it was how they wanted to be presented
to the public - the policeman as hero, always finding the solution.
Looking back on the series,
Alex Marnoch ex commander of Brixton police station in south London,
the location of the fictional Dock Green, said "I never knew a
George Dixon and I joined the force in 1959. The programme was stereotyped
and not very realistic".
realism came in the form of Z Cars with the police portrayed as human
beings, with weaknesses and eccentricities, a group of men - all the
leading roles were for men - who were as likely as any other social
group to include a drunk, a gambler or a wife beater.
Z Cars overlapped with
Dixon and lasted an amazing 18 years before it, too, eventually outstayed
its welcome. Towards the end, in the assessment of many of the police,
it was not reflecting anything that was happening on the streets. Crime
and policing had moved on - its portrayal on TV had not.
The last 20 years, however,
have seen TV drama where the representation of the police has been more
in touch with changing styles and attitudes - The Sweeney, Law &
Order, Between The Lines, The Bill, Taggart, The Cops, all taking a
quite different approach to their benchmark predecessors, Dixon and
Series created by writers
as different in their beliefs and motivations as G F Newman and John
Hopkins. Newman who described his series Law & Order as "more
anchored in reality - exploring the thin line between policeman and
villain - to show the policeman as essentially corrupt"
Hopkins, on the other hand, widely regarded as one of the greatest TV
writers of the last 30 years said his task was to explore man's
compromise with evil and the police's "commitment to our safety
and what the cost is to them; how much in terms of ordinary life they
sacrifice to be our guardians"
Over the years these
series have taken account of the increasing sophistication of the viewing
audience well able to discriminate between drama and reality, fact and
Alan Plater - another
distinguished playwright - noted it is often easier and more honest
to present truth through drama; through fiction rather than through
documentary evidence which is incomplete.
Robert Reiner, Professor
of Criminology at the London School of Economics and Political Science
"Overall, I think
the fictional representation of the police has worked towards the legitimation
of the police. In the culture of the 1950s, if you'd shown the
police behaving the way the bill do, it would have shocked people. The
changing representations are really ways of maintaining a degree of
acceptance for the police in a climate of changing cultural expectations.
All of these series represent the police essentially as heroic figures
struggling to do a job under very difficult circumstances."
As the issues become more complex, the challenges and dilemmas faced
by the police today continue to be represented in drama but also in
a range of other genres, especially documentaries and features which
look at changing police methods, the causes of crime, and programmes
like Crimewatch (and its many successors) and Car Wars (made with the
co-operation of Strathclyde Police) which make a significant contribution
to the process of policing and detection, stressing the role of the
ordinary citizen in helping the police.
Programmes which, I believe,
demonstrate the wider social purpose that TV can perform.
Of course it is when
you move from features to journalism - news and current affairs - that
we move into the territory where we come into contact with a more challenging
set of issues.
The broadcaster's aim is to provide information, to be revelatory.
I think it is true to say that that is not always the aim of the police
- one reason why we operate within such clear guidelines which set down
the parameters within which our producers are expected to work . They
are a definition and a compendium of good practice.
Over 300 pages they lay
down the ground rules on the BBC's values and standards with sections
devoted to impartiality and accuracy, fairness to contributors, privacy
and taste and decency.
There are three sections
on politics and seven on matters of law. A major section on editorial
issues in factual programming includes sections on reporting crime,
terrorism and national security, confidentiality and relations with
We know that there is general agreement of the soundness of these guidelines.
They underline the BBC's commitment to fairness in our journalism
and all our programme making. They provide a framework within which
producers can approach sensitive, difficult issues. Issues which challenge
existing practice and demand sound judgement.
We tussle with these
every day. Once the newsgathering process has taken place serious editorial
decisions have to be taken as to what is selected for transmission.
We must take into consideration issues of taste and decency, especially
when there are shots of abusive or violent behaviour, taking into account
the timing of the transmission and the overall context in which the
story will be placed - while remaining true in words and pictures to
what actually happened.
We have to be sensitive too, for example, to issues such as whether
coverage of violent and irresponsible public protest gives encouragement
- the oxygen of publicity - or whether it acts as a check on excessive
force, from whatever quarter. These issues confront us in all sorts
of areas from anti-paedophile protests in a local community to the events
that surrounded the summit of the G8 nations in Genoa.
We take these issues
seriously, debate them, interrogate our coverage, learn from each other
and from audience reaction and where necessary, amend our guidelines
And we recognise that
it is inevitable that the interests of the police and the broadcaster
will not march together - I think that each of us respects that we have
fundamentally different functions.
The police have the
job of investigating crime with a view to reporting that to the procurator
fiscal for possible prosecution. The BBC's function, in terms of
its charter, is to report the news to the public. The BBC journalists,
like all journalists working for any news organisation, want to report
the news as fully and as quickly as possible. This means, therefore,
that the BBC will only accept restrictions on its ability to report
everything fully and immediately when there is a sound legal or policy
reason for not doing so.
For example, a request from the police for a news blackout during a
siege situation will meet with a positive response from the BBC and
other broadcasters. Journalists accept that, although their job is to
report the news to the public as soon as possible, in this kind of scenario
that is outweighed by the greater good of the safety of those involved
as hostages in the siege. And informal requests from the police to journalists
for information will also usually meet with a positive response. Broadcasters
should also be good citizens. However, we do have concerns in some areas
particularly at the moment with interpretation of the data protection
and human rights acts.
There will always be, of course, a healthy tension between broadcasters
and police forces who have their own responsibilities and their own
interpretation of these acts. However, we have been concerned that some
police forces are interpreting their data protection obligations in
a way that obstruct the free flow of information.
A particular problem
for example has arisen around naming victims of accidents or crime.
If someone is involved in an accident it may be both appropriate and
also the best practical solution for the police to ask their relatives
whether their names can be revealed. But the difficulties in implementing
this has led to some police forces not releasing any details about the
victims of accidents at all.
If the person involved is a public figure who may have been driving
while over the limit, you can see the potential for the data protection
act to be used as an excuse to suppress information that should be in
the public domain. The result is that some police are oversensitive
about their perceived obligations under the data protection act of 1998,
and the Human Rights Act 1998, rather than the rights of the public
and the media to a free flow of information in the public interest.
Some ignore the exemptions
provided for the media under the DPA. Much of the information they hold
back could be supplied under the provisions that state they can release
information 'for policing purposes'. Releasing more rather than less
information could lead to the swifter apprehension of criminals.
Following informal meetings
between media representatives and ACPO(s) a set of guidelines, as I
understand it, has now been drawn up. It is hoped that this will work
well. It is the BBC's experience that practice is not uniform throughout
Scotland. There are some forces simply less willing to come forward
with the information about who was injured in an accident, and the like,
We also believe that
it is perfectly legitimate for a journalist to ask the police if someone
has been arrested or not. It is by no means unknown for the police to
refuse to answer this question. This may not only be contrary to police
interests but also to the interests of justice. Section 3 of the contempt
of court act 1981 says that if journalists have made reasonable inquiries
and have no reason to believe that an arrest has been made (so making
proceedings "active") that journalists can proceed with a
story, which would otherwise be deemed to be contempt of court, in complete
safety. In this as in other matters, the service you get as a journalist
depends on the part of the country you're working in.
Another area of concern,
more recently in the news, arises in the case of search warrants seeking
news pictures of untransmitted material shot at public events. Our reluctance
to hand over such material merits some explanation. I'm sure its misunderstood
in some quarters.
(Those of you who have
served as police officers in England will be well aware of the provisions
of the police and criminal evidence act (PACE) in that jurisdiction.
There, it is necessary for journalistic material to be treated as a
special category. If the police want film from the BBC or any other
broadcaster, they have to go to court for a pace order. They also have
to identify the material very specifically).
Furthermore, the BBC and other news organisations are given the opportunity
of addressing the court as to why it may not be right to order release
of the material - or at least all of the material.
In Scotland there is
no such provision. In my time as controller of BBC Scotland only on
one occasion has the BBC been notified by a Scottish court of an application
made by the crown for a search warrant and invited to address the court.
When our lawyers were asked to go to court on that occasion (in Dundee
in 1993), the result was a very different form of words on the search
warrant than that which would have obtained if we had not had our say.
All this has recently
been in the news after the public disorder at Govanhill baths in Glasgow
in August. Although the police had their own video camera there, they
obtained a warrant to take all transmitted and untransmitted video footage
from BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow. When the terms of the warrant were
faxed to our legal department our lawyers took the view that it was
excessively wide. They were given instructions to try to have the warrant
set aside. They immediately set in train the process of instructing
counsel to petition the high court by means of a bill of suspension.
They also sent the tapes of the Govanhill disorder out of the office
for the purpose of lodging in the high court in connection with the
bill of suspension.
When the police arrived, they were far from pleased to be given an account
of the decision we had taken! Indeed, it is my understanding that there
was some talk of arresting one of our lawyers for obstructing the police
in the course of their duty.
So some explanation is
The BBC's position
is that staff on the ground must be protected. If photojournalists are
seen as no more than an arm of the police, they will be in considerable
danger from demonstrators.
The prime concern of
the BBC and other journalistic organisations is to supply the public
with news - the basic job of journalism. The law recognises the importance
of that task in a democratic society by making freedom of speech one
of the "fundamental freedoms" recognised under the European
Convention. It is similarly recognised in the constitutions of all democratic
nations throughout the world.
In order to enable journalists
to exercise freedom of speech (something which they do not in their
own interests but on behalf of you and me - the public) they require
a special degree of protection. In highly-charged public disorder situations,
such as that seen at the Govanhill baths, if newspaper and broadcast
photojournalists simply hand over their pictures to the police, they
will quite justifiably be seen by demonstrators as little more than
an information-gathering service for the police.
Conversations with journalists
after such ugly scenes often involve tales of threats by demonstrators
who anticipate that the pictures may find their way into the hands of
the constabulary. Usually, an explanation that they will remain with
the journalist unless the court orders otherwise is sufficient to ward
In England, there have
even been occasions when the police, recognising this privileged position
which photo-journalists occupy, have masqueraded as broadcast cameramen.
(happily, not in Scotland). The police nowadays routinely video public
demonstrators for information-gathering purposes. However, they do not
have the same degree of freedom to roam within the demonstrators as
photo-journalists. That is, we believe, because the stance presently
taken by the BBC against the handing over of their pictures is generally
understood by the demonstrators.
In England it is almost
invariably the case that the court orders disclosure of material. In
balancing possible damage to freedom of speech as against the public
interest in the investigation and prosecution of crime, the court regularly
comes down on the side of the investigation of crime. That serves the
journalists' purpose very well. The untransmitted material is released
only when the court says so. Journalists, and the BBC in particular,
are asking for no more that that.
I believe that the agreement between BBC Scotland's legal department
and the crown over the Govanhill tapes is a useful step forward in the
relationship between broadcasters and the police. The crown has accepted
that, in future cases when untransmitted film is sought, the crown will
intimate the fact that the police are applying for a search warrant
to the BBC (or other broadcaster).
There will then be a
court hearing at which the BBC's comments, if any, on the terms of the
application by the police can be made. In that way, the interests of
the broadcaster in protecting staff from danger on the ground will be
I hope this will lead to a better understanding of, and respect for,
our very different interests in relations to such testing situations.
There is another important area where we would like to see change. Change
which we believe would lead to a better understanding of the justice
system in Scotland.
We believe that in a
modern Scotland with its own parliament it is time that we took a bold
step in the way that justice in our courts is covered. The televising
of court proceedings, subject to careful conditions and within the constraints
of the BBC's editorial standards, would represent a significant
shift in the way that the media, and specifically the electronic media,
reports on the way that court business is handled.
We start from the position
that in a modern Scotland it is important for the administration and
execution of justice that justice is not only done but that it is seen
to be done.
It follows therefore,
that where the coverage of court cases has existed as a key ingredient
for newspapers and magazines, we believe that in the age of digital
television and the internet it is not unreasonable for courts and for
the wider legal profession to give serious consideration to rethinking
the needs of citizens, who, for practical and other reasons cannot attend
court hearings, but who would take an interest in coverage of cases.
Let me be quite clear
that in trying to balance the needs of the system, the access of citizens
to justice, the demands of the media and the way that many people live
modern lives, I am not championing box-office demands under the guise
of public service broadcasting. A modern system should enable the courts
administration and the presiding judge to retain substantive powers
to control the nature of daily coverage of a particular case, the admissibility
of evidence and other facets. (These detailed matters, however, are
for another place).
This is not a spurious
attempt to create OJ Simpson-style media circuses. Nor is it designed
to reassure people here or beyond that there are no discomforts for
the profession. This is not the place to stray into practical details,
but I would hope that the profession will move some way towards our
position as we make the case for cameras in the courts.
Why is it the case that
newspaper reporters - unless restrictions have been introduced - are
able to report daily on proceedings without apparently any quibble from
prosecution, defence or indeed presiding judges? There would be no difference
in electronic transmissions of the progress of a case, except that it
might help to dispel arguments about interpretation, accuracy and tone.
Undoubtedly, there are
people who will resist such a move on the basis that it would interfere
with the safe and efficient execution of justice. I have not heard or
seen any convincing evidence that, with appropriate controls, this would
be the inevitable outcome. I have seen evidence of televised trials
for example at the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague. We
know that CNN will cover a part of the arold Shipman public inquiry
in Manchester. I am confident that the safeguards which govern the work
that we as a public service broadcaster undertake would serve such coverage
The Scottish parliament
is considering a freedom of information bill and therefore it is, I
would suggest, timely to consider afresh the issue of televising the
courts with a view to bringing it about in the short to medium term.
Let us consider the issue
in the context of freedom of information. Such a regime concerns openness
and transparency. The aim of the legislation as I understand it is to
hold up public bodies to scrutiny by allowing the public more access
to information concerning actions taken by these bodies in the public's
name. The underlying philosophy is that the public pay for and are affected
by these bodies and therefore, in a democracy, should be able to find
out what is being done by them.
Courts are public bodies. They are paid for by the public purse. Judges,
clerks and all court officials are public employees. The court buildings
are paid for and maintained by the public. The prosecution of criminal
cases is paid for by the public. In criminal cases the defence is paid
for by the public under legal aid.
The 1992 guidelines which
presently govern tv cameras in the courts are unsustainable for a number
They act against the system of open justice which allows the public
the best and most convenient form of access available to public courts;
they deny the public
access at the whim of the accused or his lawyers;
they in effect treat
criminal courts as the province of the accused and their legal advisers.
Experience shows that
defence lawyers regard it as their right to decide if the public can
have television access to public court proceedings. The experience is
that, almost invariably, they choose to deny that.
I am not saying that every trial lends itself to television, but even
in highly unusual or significant trials such as the Lockerbie trial
at Camp Zeist, there is no access. Yet given the fact that the principle
of open justice has been accepted in Scotland for hundreds of years,
it is difficult to reconcile the situation here with that which exists
overseas. The use of television in trials of significance is quite usual
in many countries and in international courts. These include Nuremberg;
the war crimes tribunal for the former leader of Yugoslavia at the Hague;
there is also the televising of significant Mafia trials in Italy; France
televised the trial of Klaus Barbie; and of course in the United States
courts have been regularly televised.
China, Russia and New Zealand have all experimented successfully with
the televising of important trials and again in America there was coverage
of the Florida hearings following voting for the presidential election.
A word about Lockerbie.
This was, as I don't need to remind this audience, the biggest
mass murder trial ever prosecuted before a Scottish court.
In effect the public
were denied access to the trial because hardly any Scots were able to
make the journey to the Netherlands. If it had been held in Edinburgh,
however, I don't believe the court would have been able to accommodate
all those interested in observing proceedings.
BBC Scotland made it clear that we would be willing to broadcast the
whole of the trial, unedited, and to share the footage with other broadcasters.
It was also accepted that measures taken to obscure the identities of
witnesses, or any other endeavour by the court, would be respected.
Since a feed was already being provided to remote sites at New York,
Washington, London and Dumfries, funded by the American department of
justice, there would be no physical disruption or interference to the
Our proposals were refused
in their entirety, first administratively, secondly in a court action
backed by other media organisations in March 2000 and finally by three
judges in April 2000. These refusals were primarily on the basis of
perceived impact on witnesses, although the flat refusal encompassed
also the media's request to televise pure legal argument, like the closing
Discussions are now underway
about televising parts of the Lockerbie appeal. This has met with a
much more favourable response from the accused's lawyers and the court
and we are hopeful that some advance may be achieved.
Inevitably there are misgivings within the legal profession about the
efficacy of such a substantial change . I would ask those who feel alarm
or resistance to think on the experience of first of all the Westminster
parliament and then the Scottish parliament. It is easy to forget the
considerable misgivings that many MPs had before cameras were allowed
to capture elected representatives going about their legislative and
These doubts have proved
unfounded and in the case of, for example, the BBC's Westminster
Live and Holyrood Live, the public seems to appreciate the coverage
with substantial audiences every week. The courts might wish to consider
a model for the provision of pictures and sound similar to that employed
by the parliaments through which the courts administration would provide
feeds to the media.
It was Bentham, philosopher
and jurist, who said: "publicity is the soul of justice."
Televising the courts
would I believe, bring the justice system, the police and the public
closer together with citizens gaining a better understanding of how
courts work and how and why the law is applied the way that it is.
How many police officers,
lawyers and judges have winced at the regular stream of Anglo-American
terms in common public use when people are trying to describe a Scottish
trial? But how can we blame the ordinary law abiding person if they
get it wrong, when they will see more American justice on screen than
they will ever see Scots justice in practice?
Most people cannot attend a court; in any event most are too small to
house a crowd and therefore people depend on the media for their information.
We know that most people derive their news and current affairs coverage
from television, so why not include televised court coverage as part
Education, access, understanding
and, I would argue, a strengthened system of justice. The time is right,
we can build in safeguards and we can assist the justice system in Scotland
- I trust the case for television in the courts will be given a fair
hearing in the months ahead. For us it accords with the best traditions
of public service broadcasting.
As I mentioned at the outset these public service broadcasting values
have endured through a long period of restricted competition, restricted
by spectrum scarcity and sometimes by regulation. They now have to be
re-examined, tested and challenged as we move into the digital age -
where spectrum scarcity is a thing of the past, bringing hundreds of
new channels, where national boundaries are no longer barriers within
which broadcasting can be closely regulated and where broadcasting moves
from being a broadly passive to a potentially interactive activity.
The BBC which was a benchmark
for the industry in the 20th century is now only one of many broadcasters
- and not all share the same core cultural and social purposes.
Audiences expect broadcasting
to meet many needs; entertainment, relaxation, inspiration, information,
education, individual delight and shared experience.
They expect television
and radio to extend their knowledge, inform political, consumer and
life choices, offer access to the arts, stimulate curiosity and learning,
provide insights into their own society as well as other communities;
and to enrich daily life.
But as the pattern of
our daily lives changes so our customers make new and different demands
The development of digital technology is bringing new opportunities
for audiences. It doesn't simply mean more services. It also means
new types of services with the initiative passing from the broadcaster
to the audience. Giving the consumer not only more choice but also more
control, able to build their own schedule, select programmes when they
want to watch them, not only when the broadcasters are able to deliver
It is the beginning of
self scheduling, with many viewers deciding for themselves when they
wish to receive programmes and in what order.
Where once we took pride
in providing programmes of passionate interest to minority audiences,
it has become increasingly easy, and cheap, to develop whole services
National governments will only be able to regulate the content generated
within their own boundaries. But this technology does not respect those
boundaries. Digital brings services into the homes in the UK from around
If the BBC is to continue
to be a major force in broadcasting it is important that it is at the
heart of these developments. Not the only player as it was 80 years
ago but one of the key players - making a strong, formative contribution
based on the same public service principles. What's taking place
is, in effect, the end of broadcasting as a separate industry, as a
result of the convergence of publishing, computing, telephony and broadcasting.
A business where we see the internet opening up new possibilities linking
to television and radio services.
For the BBC, on-line is the third broadcast medium. Taken together this
means that the BBC is now operating as a truly multi-media, interactive,
We see the BBC's
role as that of a trusted guide helping people to use the unfamiliar
technology to access familiar information or guiding them to new information
services, not necessarily created by the BBC.
We believe that the BBC
will continue to have a public service role bringing different communities
together, offering a level of public access that all can afford in an
increasingly commercial and bewildering digital market place.
For nearly 80 years
we have been working to earn the trust of our audiences. And there is
no doubt that the BBC is an organisation that is trusted. By and large
people do believe us and trust what we do.
That trust between the
BBC and the public is essential if we are to make our contributions
to the democratic process and to an open and tolerant - and law-abiding
Let's be clear -
civil society would not collapse without responsible broadcasting but
I do believe that the right kind of television and radio can make a
difference - adding to the lives of individuals and communities rather
than diminishing them.
This means that throughout
our programme services we respect diversity, have a concern for human
dignity and make a contribution to building a tolerant and open society.
Those objectives are
never more important than at a time like the present with our forces
engaged in warfare.
As always with war, we
are having to fight on two fronts. On the one hand is the sheer logistical
and editorial difficulty in covering a conflict in which only 10% of
the action is visible, and where even that is clouded by military fog
and frontier restrictions. On the other, is the inevitable pressure
about the nature of the coverage itself.
At one level, this is
nothing new but it remains peculiarly difficult, for the BBC. The difficulties
come in relation to maintaining its credibility. Credibility counts
not just with the domestic audience, but also with the many millions
around the world, and especially now in Afghanistan itself, who rely
on the BBC for reliable accurate and impartial reporting of the events
which directly affect them.
The BBC is now truly
a global information provider. The events of September 11 not only attracted
large audiences to our domestic radio and TV services but also to our
on line services. Seven million people came to our online news that
day making 28 million page impressions, while 36 million watched on
They turn to the BBC
for accurate news and information, but also to be helped to make sense
of events through impartial analysis and offering a range of views and
opinions, including the voices of opposition.
Of course, we are - and
should be - sensitive to genuine issues of national security, including
the personal security of the Prime Minister, and to the actual dangers
to aircrew or ground forces arising from careless reporting or speculation,
but we have to go on reporting events as they are, and not perhaps as
some might wish them to be.
It is a basic tenet of
our democracy that citizens need to know and be able to make informed
decisions. If part of the reason for the war is to defend democratic
values, we cannot afford to compromise on editorial independence and
integrity. Nor can we afford to be thought to be a state as opposed
to a public service broadcaster. There is a big difference.
The other big challenge
we face is ensuring that all significant views are represented. Again,
that will sometimes be difficult when a key part of this war is the
propaganda battle. But the arguments have to be won on their own strength
rather than attempting to rig the debate.
So at the heart of everything we do is to be a reliable source of information
and to provide the opportunity for interrogation of that information.
In that way trust in the broadcaster can support the democratic process
and the national debate.
As the challenges facing
all of us get more and more complex it is more important than ever that
we can sustain that position.
In that context, the
multi-media interactive digital age makes the issues raised by Dixon
of Dock Green and Z Cars seem very far away indeed.