Dyke's BBC conspiracy theory
I have just been discovered that the former BBC director general, Greg Dyke, made an extraordinary claim at a Lib Dem conference fringe meeting on Sunday.
The story appeared that evening on the BBC's news website under the headline, Dyke in BBC 'conspiracy' claim. It was also published by The Herald in Scotland here and, supposedly, by the Belfast Telegraph (though I can't locate it).
Several bloggers have picked up on it too. But the national press appears to have ignored it, or missed it altogether. Yet the claim should have generated widespread interest. If true, it requires more probing. If false, it should severely dent Dyke's credibility.
In his speech, about MPs' expenses, he called for a commission to look into the "whole political system", adding: "I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it."
Then, according to the BBC report, he said that during his tenure as director general (2000-2004) he had wanted to make major changes to the BBC's coverage of politics. However, these were blocked.
Here are the key quotes:
"The evidence that our democracy is failing is overwhelming and yet those with the biggest interest in sustaining the current system - the Westminster village, the media and particularly the political parties, including this one - are the groups most in denial about what is really happening to our democracy...
"I tried and failed to get the problem properly discussed when I was at the BBC and I was stopped, interestingly, by a combination of the politicos on the board of governors, one of whom was married to the man who claimed for cleaning his moat, the cabinet interestingly - the Labour cabinet - who decided to have a meeting, only about what we were trying to discuss, and the political journalists at the BBC.
"Why? Because, collectively, they are all part of the problem. They are part of one Westminster conspiracy. They don't want anything to change. It's not in their interests." [My italics]
The governor in his reference is Baroness (Sarah) Hogg. What is unclear is exactly what she allegedly stopped. A discussion?
To add to the confusion, he spoke after the meeting to the BBC reporter about holding an internal review of the BBC's political coverage.
He is quoted as saying: "There was a lot of pressure from the government of the day not to change anything."
He also denied the BBC had caved in to pressure from the government but added: "A lot of the governors were what I call semi-politicians and they liked the present system and... maybe they were right - it's not the job of the BBC to change the political system and to start questioning the political system.
"I happen to not agree with that but, you know, we didn't get anywhere."
He also denied that his comments were meant as a criticism of BBC journalists and then added: "In the end, political journalists live in the same narrow world as politicians do and they don't see a need to change because they think it's the world. They just don't understand that out there it's very different."
So what was the nature of the so-called conspiracy? Or does it amount to a conspiracy at all in the accepted sense of the term? Baroness Hogg and her former colleagues on the board of governors may wish to know.
Sources: BBC/Herald Hat tip: journalism.co.uk