There is a row going on between the London School of Economics (LSE) and the BBC over the latter’s involvement in a recent visit to North Korea. The secretive domain of Kim Jong-un is difficult for visitors to access, and for journalists almost impossible. So John Sweeney and his colleagues joined an LSE party – but told them before entering the country.
This has not assuaged the LSE, who have kicked off, demanding the resulting Panorama programme – due to air tomorrow evening – be pulled, along with an apology from new Beeb boss Tony “Head Prefect” Hall. The Corporation has decided not to budge, nor to apologise, despite talk of using students as “human shields” and mutterings of North Korean reprisals.
Sadly for the LSE, the groundswell of sympathy that usually accompanies any attack on the BBC has largely failed to materialise. This may not be unconnected to their previously having courted the Gadafy regime in Libya and accepted money from them. So the best they have managed thus far is to have their concerns reported. At first, even the biggest Beeb haters of all were not interested.
The Mail even ran a piece by Sweeney earlier: “Inside North Korea: No ads, no planes, no internet, no mobiles, no 21st Century... A rare dispatch from deep within the lunatic rogue state enslaved by Zombie and Sons” read the headline. A day-by-day summary was also provided. It sounds suitably grim, and should drum up a good audience for tomorrow evening’s broadcast.
After all, this is meat and drink for the Mail, and the kind of thing the paper would have regularly run about the Soviet Union in days gone by: totalitarian states, shortages, secret police, nervous tourist minders, factories not making anything, power cuts, fuel shortages, personality cults, rallies, prison camps, lack of any kind of modern technology, all would be highlighted.
But the word has clearly gone out to Mail hacks to play both sides of the field, in order to satisfy the iron rule of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to not pass up a Beeb bashing opportunity. “BBC accused of putting students at top university at risk by using their visit to North Korea as front for documentary” thundered the latest headline, as the Gadafy business was temporarily forgotten.
“The BBC has been accused of deception ... Panorama journalists are said to have put lives in danger ... blistering letter sent to all members of the university” read the narrative. And here’s where they take the biscuit: the piece re-uses the photo from the top of the Sweeney article, showing him and a North Korean soldier near the border with the South. Talk about having your cake and eating it.
Or, of course, taking Sweeney’s copy and then kicking him. No change there, then.