2014 02 – Letter on BBC Reporting World News

Dear Editor

The Today programme on Radio 4 of 2nd January was extraordinary. It can still be listened to at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03mhyzh. It had items on, amongst other things:

(06:30) The evils of the arms trade

(06:45) The iniquity of the UN system, in particular, the Security Council veto (by Dennis Halliday, who resigned from a UN post in the 1990s over sanctions against Iraq)

(07:45) John Pilger on what the mainstream media fail to tell us (beginning with the poll finding that thanks to the BBC and others, a majority of people in Britain believe that less than 10,000 people have been killed in Iraq since the US/UK invasion)

(08:15) The reality of life for wounded ex-service men, compared with the sanatised images portrayed by mainstream media (ending with Joan Baez singing Johnny I hardly knew ya)

(08:30) Britain ’s record of torture with Phil Shiner (the lawyer who has caused the British government endless trouble re torture in Iraq ) and Ian Cobain (Guardian journalist who has recently written a book on Britain ’s record of torture, namely, Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture)

(08:50) Julian Assange

This extraordinary edition of Today came about because at this time of the year the programme has “guest editors”, who select a few topics to cover. This has been going on for a few years but I don’t remember any items due to guest editors being in any way interesting, let alone disturbing to the BBC or the wider British establishment. But this time every item broadcast at the behest of the guest editor wouldn’t have had a hope of seeing the light of day in a normal Today programme, not least because most of them were in the form of essays by individuals chosen by the guest editor, not interviews by Today presenters.

The guest editor responsible for this was the singer, PJ Harvey. Having been chosen by the BBC, she must have threatened to quit and make a terrible fuss if she wasn’t allowed to broadcast what she wanted. The BBC will be more careful next year in choosing guest editors. Perhaps, the fact that she accepted an MBE last June (for services to music) led them to believe that it was safe to choose her.


David Morrison

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