Oddly enough, re the latest Newsnight/BBC debacle, Esther Rantzen got it right. She was talking on Newsnight. She made the point that her old programme That’s Life regularly did investigative stuff, but that there was always a lawyer involved, all the way along, right from the off. Absolutely. I did the same thing at the Today programme – when both Andrew Gilligan and Angus Stickler were on my books and we did an investigative piece at least once a week. No question: the reporter would be told what he needed to get to stand the story up at the commissioning point. There would usually be a lawyer in then. Then we’d regroup half way through the piece and review what else was needed for the piece to stand up to scrutiny. And then, at the end, we’d pick apart every line of script and again run it by a lawyer. If there was the slightest problem, it wouldn’t run. Never had a single problem, doing it that way.
But it seems the BBC doesn’t do this stuff anymore – partly, I think, because it doesn’t really ‘get’ investigative journalism. Newsnight is now in the most appalling trouble. It is hard to see the programme continuing to exist in its present form.