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Episode 7 of 8
Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians, from the early days to the present: today, the Iraq War and the most damaging political row in the BBC's history. He examines the clash between the BBC and the government that led to the resignations of the BBC's Chairman, Gavyn Davies, and its Director-General, Greg Dyke, and walkouts by staff.
The Blair Government's decision to take Britain to war in Iraq over the apparent threat posed by its dictator, Saddam Hussein, was deeply controversial. After the invasion, as doubts grew over whether Saddam possessed any weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the Today programme reporter Andrew Gilligan alleged that the Government 'probably knew' that its earlier claim that Saddam could deploy WMD within 45 minutes 'was wrong', even before they put it in the dossier on Saddam's threat. The Government rejected Gilligan's claim and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's chief of communications, repeatedly demanded an apology. After the death of the BBC's source, the weapons expert Dr David Kelly, Tony Blair called an inquiry.
The verdict of Lord Hutton's inquiry was damning on the BBC. The BBC Chairman, Gavyn Davies, and the Director-General, Greg Dyke, resigned. The BBC reformed its journalism and complaints procedures. No WMD were found in Iraq and MI6 withdrew its 45-minute claim.
In previous programmes, Nick Robinson has looked at the General Strike; the dispute over foreign policy in the 1930s; the Suez crisis in 1956; the row between the Labour Party and the BBC in the early 1970s; the clashes over reporting Northern Ireland; the Falklands War. In his final programme, he looks at the present relationship between broadcasters and politicians
Producer: Rob Shepherd.