Viewers brand the BBC ‘dangerous’ for burying a gamechanger in the Russian spy case

Russia BBC
James Wright

Viewers have branded the BBC “dangerously irresponsible” for apparently burying a gamechanger in the Russian spy story in its broadcast coverage:

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The gamechanger

More than 20 countries have expelled Russian diplomats over the UK’s position that Russia poisoned former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Backing the allegation, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said that people from the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory “were absolutely categorical” that the Novichok nerve agent used to poison Skripal came from Russia.

But on 3 April, the chief executive of the UK’s government laboratory, headquartered at Porton Down, told Sky News that the agency has “not verified the precise source” of the nerve agent.

BBC buries

Two hours after Porton Down announced that the scientific evidence was inconclusive, BBC News at Six ignored the development. Instead, the programme attacked Jeremy Corbyn for attending a Passover feast with a Jewish group. With the apparent double standard in mind, social media is awash with complaints from viewers:

After Skripal was poisoned, The Canary reported that there was no available evidence conclusively pointing to any culprit in the Russian spy case. Now, Porton Down has confirmed that the institution hasn’t attributed the nerve agent to any state. In response, the UK government says that Porton Down was “only one part of the intelligence picture”. The defence laboratory takes the same line.

Fast forward to BBC News at Ten, and the state broadcaster still appeared to be sidelining the revelation.

One journalist accused the BBC of dedicating much more time to Corbyn attending a Jewish dinner and Prince Philip having a hip operation than to the Porton Down development. And he criticised BBC News for failing to hold the foreign secretary to account for claiming Porton Down “categorically” said the nerve agent came from Russia:

Last month, BBC Newsnight painted Corbyn as an apologist for Russia for asking for evidence before reacting to the assassination attempt:

A BBC spokesperson told The Canary:

The story was covered extensively across BBC News outlets yesterday, including prominently on the News at 10 with our security correspondent, Frank Gardner. We have continued to cover the story this morning and the foreign secretary’s comments have been discussed, for example, on Radio 4’s Today programme.

BBC losing trust of public?

The BBC has extensively covered attacks on Corbyn. But now, the state broadcaster seems to be downplaying an important development in the Russian spy story. Quite rightly, viewers are outraged at where their licence fee money is going. A recent survey of British adults by One Poll found that only 17% of respondents trust the BBC. That’s not a good sign for our public service broadcaster. The BBC should be democratised, not run like an arm of the establishment.

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Featured image via Flickr/ Andy Roberts and screengrab

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