Still blustering over Sir Cliff: The BBC’s arrogance knows no bounds

Still blustering over Sir Cliff: The BBC’s arrogance knows no bounds

This is a guest post by Kathy Gyngell, from The Conservative Woman

We have chronicled the saga of the BBC’s gross and inept intrusion into Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy from day one on TCW. In July Mr Justice Mann vindicated Sir Cliff and held the BBC to account over their coverage of the raid on his home. Since then the corporation has kept its head firmly in the sand. No one has been sacked and the apologies have been half-hearted.

For a while the BBC managed to psych up the MSM that there was a grave issue of press freedom at stake. Ever used to being their own judge and jury, the corporation sought to appeal against the ruling. But Mr Justice Mann was having none of this imaginary quagmire.

We published his reasons for dismissing the BBC’s argument here. It was, David Keighley wrote, a clear case of ‘game, set and match’ to the judge.

You’d be forgiven for believing that would be the end of that. Not so.

David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, has now appeared on one of the BBC’s own programmes to say Mr Justice Mann did not read his own judgment! We must thank the Is the BBC biased? website for being so quick to pick up on this interview which we reprint below.

The person, of course, who has not read the judgment is not its author but this senior BBC apologist. David Jordan’s interview on Newswatch confirms what we already know – that BBC arrogance knows no bounds.

This transcript is from Is the BBC biased and is published here by kind permission.

SAMIRA AHMED: No one from the BBC was available to speak to us about this before. I am pleased to say we are now joined by David Jordan, the corporation’s director of editorial policy and standards. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. Do you accept, as many viewers say, that the BBC has fallen below the standard expected of it?

DAVID JORDAN: We are very clear we regret some aspects of the way in which we covered the Cliff Richard story at the beginning. We made clear that we think that the use of a helicopter was inappropriate in the circumstances and that there were some other things about the way in which we covered it, the proportionality of it and so on, which we, with the benefit of hindsight, now regret. So yes, there are certain things about the way in which we did the story which we regret. But we have never conceded the principle, and that’s why we got involved in the court case when Sir Cliff took a case against us. We have never conceded the principle, nor wish to concede the principle, that we should not have reported the matter at all.

AHMED: The editorial misjudgment is the one we want to talk about. You mentioned the helicopter going up, which was defended at the time. Leading bulletins with it and going live, those were areas, too?

JORDAN: Well, those were all the areas which the judge criticised in his judgment . . .

AHMED: (interrupting) And do you agree?

JORDAN: . . . and which the BBC has conceded that, with the benefit of hindsight, we might have done differently, if we did the story today . . .

AHMED: (interrupting) Entering it for an award, despite all the criticism?

JORDAN: Yes, well, the BBC has said that was a misjudgment.

AHMED: Sir Cliff offered to settle this without going to court and the police, of course, did settle. It has cost the licence fee-payer £2million so far. Would you like to say sorry?

JORDAN: Well, it’s not true that Sir Cliff offered to settle it. We offered to settle with Sir Cliff on a number of occasions, but what Sir Cliff’s lawyers wanted was not a settlement but a surrender. They wanted us to concede the principle, as well as to acknowledge that the way in which we had done things was not appropriate. So it isn’t true to say that Sir Cliff offered to settle. I’m afraid he didn’t, otherwise we could have prevented us having to go through all of the ensuing case.

AHMED: Well, can you talk about this point of principle then? Because if it’s a big point of principle that your journalistic freedom is threatened, why are you not appealing?

JORDAN: Well, we’ve made it clear we considered appealing very carefully. The problem is that legal advice that we were given is that the prospects of success in a legal case were very small. So the judgment we had to make was whether it was worth going forward with a small likelihood of being successful, or not to go ahead at all. Given the costs of litigation in this country, which are very considerable, and given the extra pain that would have been caused to Sir Cliff and all for the unlikely to result in the outcome that we wanted, which was to contest the principle involved in this case, we decided it would be better not to do so.

AHMED: You see, given that he was not arrested at the time and wasn’t subsequently charged and no one had ever covered a case like this, sending up a helicopter before, people are asking why did the BBC claim there was a public interest defence to this?

JORDAN: Well, this took place in 2014 in the context of a number of sexual abuse cases involving high-profile people in the entertainment industry, and it was the case that in some of those cases where people were named it resulted in other allegations coming forward and other victims presenting themselves and thereby making the case against them considerably stronger. And we have had something similar happen in the United States recently with the naming of Harvey Weinstein, the accusation he is a sexual abuser, bringing forward a lot of other cases of a similar sort. So that is where a considerable part of the public interest lies. There also is a public interest in the public knowing about police investigations and the media’s ability to scrutinise those public investigations and scrutinise the work of the police. And there is a public interest and the public’s right to know things that are going on in our society and that is always the presumption from which we start.

AHMED: You’re the head of BBC editorial policy and standards. You heard the court evidence, BBC journalists joking in emails about Jailhouse Rock, ‘congratulations and jubilations’. Is that acceptable by BBC editorial standards?

JORDAN: Well, we’ve made it clear that, it is not an editorial standards matter as such, but we made it clear that was not appropriate. However, you know, let’s be clear, who of us have not issued at some point in our lives an email which, if read out in a courtroom, or plastered all over the national press, would not look slightly awry?

AHMED: (interrupting) Hmm. This is BBC editors about a serious allegation.

JORDAN: It was people who are covering a story and they were celebrating the fact that they had covered the story – and they did it in an inappropriate way, in a wrong way, but, you know, he who casts the first stone, etc.

AHMED: Jonathan Munro [BBC head of newsgathering] came on Newswatch after the story ran and defended it and defended the helicopter and, you know, it’s very interesting to see with the benefit of hindsight, but the BBC is supposed to have editorial standards and judgment and what viewers are really concerned about is the BBC didn’t seem to have them at the time of the Cliff Richard case.

JORDAN: No, I think some misjudgments were made. They were made in good faith at the time. They were made within the context of the law that applied at the time and nobody was trying to do something wrong. It was at that time completely standard practice to name a person who was the subject of a police investigation. This case has altered case law on this question. In a way . . .

AHMED: (interrupting) Well, Mr Justice Mann denies that.

JORDAN: Well, I’m afraid that means he hasn’t read his own judgment. I’m afraid his judgment . . .

AHMED: (interrupting) You’re telling me he was wrong?

JORDAN: I’m afraid his judgment says this, and it introduces a huge chasm of uncertainty into whether or not you can name a suspect in these circumstances. He does say if the police name them you can do so, but he introduces . . . and he does say if it is manifestly in the public interest you can do so, but then he says that it wasn’t in the public interest in this case, which involved a sexual abuse case . . .

AHMED: (interrupting) So you take it case by case. You have made that clear, that is a legal issue about whether the balance between the public interest and the right to privacy, and that’s a case-by-case basis, says the judge. Can you tell me why no one at the BBC has resigned over this Cliff Richard case?

JORDAN: Well, it’s not always the right thing to do, to sack people or make people resign, when something goes wrong. Obviously, it’s very important that we learn the lessons – and we have done and are doing – and we will do things differently in the future. But. as I said, the people who made the decisions about how this story was going to be covered did so in good faith, they did so within the context of the law as it existed at that time, and it’s not always appropriate to sack people and get people to resign for doing their job in the way that they thought was proper at the time.

AHMED: David Jordan, thank you.

JORDAN: Thank you.


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