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Saturday 8 October 2011

Letts Tell A Patten Of Porkies

There are times when you need to delve into the small print of an article to uncover agenda driven copy or downright dishonesty. But, on occasion, the whopper leaps right off the page, and the latter has been demonstrated today by the appalling Quentin Letts (let’s not) who has done the bidding of his legendarily foul mouthed editor and produced a piece of classic fiction about the hated BBC.

Is there a Patten to this Newsnight surrender?” asks Quent with rhetorical flourish, and thus readers know where the piece is heading. “Lord Patten’s past as a European Commissioner is causing ructions at the BBC, where he is now chairman” he goes on, making the first of several howlers: Chris Patten chairs the BBC Trust, which does not have operational control over the Corporation.

Harry Potter and the gobshite of dishonesty

But then Letts’ tone becomes less certain: “Was Patten’s Europhilia behind the decision of two BBC managers to apologise to an EC spokesman who was monstered on Newsnight?” he states, sorry, asks. Letts is referring to the incident where Amadeu Altafaj Tardio removed his earpiece and walked out of the Beeb’s Brussels studio after being repeatedly insulted by an over-excited Peter Oborne.

Letts wrongly tells that Altafaj Tardio “stomped off the show”, which he did not. The level of accuracy continues at this abysmal level as Altafaj Tardio is described as a “Spaniard”. He is Portuguese. And the logic of Letts’ piece is all over the place: how can the subsequent issuing of an apology for Oborne’s boorish and insulting behaviour cause Newsnight staff to “feel got-at”?

The remainder of Letts’ argument is equally paper-thin: “There is talk of ‘pressure’ being brought to bear” he asserts, then concludes “Two Newsnight journalists privately say that pressure came from Patten”. Really? The chairman of the BBC Trust, which enjoys no executive control over the Corporation, has been directly intervening in BBC News editorial matters? No, not really: Letts made that up.

Had Patten done as Letts suggests, he would not be long for his post as Chairman of the BBC Trust. But I can guarantee that he will not be dismissed as a result of someone apologising for Peter Oborne’s unpleasant behaviour, because there was no pressure – whether in inverted commas or otherwise – and Patten did not intervene, except in the agenda dictated by Paul Dacre.

And fitting the piece to that agenda is what is important for the Daily Mail. Bothering to get someone’s nationality correct, getting the sequence of events in order, and being able to tell the difference between BBC Management and the BBC Trust, are unimportant. It was ever thus.

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