The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

When I was beginning to write the book, it seemed to me an encapsulation of a major theme of it; that is that between the media and politics had developed a daily, indeed hourly struggle, and the struggle was over the minds of those whom we journalists call the audience or the viewers or the readers and whom politicians call the electorate, the citizens. In a way, we are fighting for the same thing. We are fighting for the allegiance of their opinion. We are fighting for their allegiance.

That struggle, which I think is an increasing feature of the media from the 70s onwards, and became much more overt, seemed to me to have a kind of epiphany in the Gilligan affair, because although it became quite clear quite quickly that the BBC did not -- at the very least did not have the substance with which to back an allegation which essentially was that the Prime Minister knowingly lied to the country in the first report of that, just after 6 in the morning, it continued to defend that, although it no longer continued to put it out, and defended it to the point of pitting itself against the government.

In his memoirs, Blair writes about the surprise he had that the BBC could not simply issue an apology which for something which, after all, could have been simply a footnote, but instead defended, right up to the level of the chairman and the director general, the report and rebutted any attempt by the government to have it corrected, and did so on the grounds that for it to do so would be to cave in to political pressure and as a free medium, part of the free media, it could not do so without losing part of its freedom.

That seemed to me to be a very good example of the struggle which I was trying to illuminate.

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