THE BBC AND LITVINENKO
Radio 4's Today programme on Friday morning was beside itself with excitement at what it thought was a scoop on the Alexander Litvinenko poisoned spy saga. It revealed that it had sopken to someone who had seen his X-rays, which revealed some 'packages' inside his body, about the size of a two pence piece, one of which seemed to have split open. There then followed a good deal of speculation about what these packages might be and how they might have got there, the consensus being that he must have swallowed them deliberately. There was, it seemed to me, a clear inference that Litvinenko might have poisoned himself (other people I've spoken to who heard the broadcast drew the same inference). Here's the report on the BBC website http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6175424.stm
Later in the day, it emerged that the story was rubbih and that these 'packages' were in fact shadows on the X-ray caused by his treatment. This clarification was buried deep in a story on the BBC's website:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6176004.stm - without any acknowledgement that the original false story was the result of BBC speculation.
The BBC holds itself up as an authoritative gatherer and publisher of news, whose standards of accuracy and verification are far higher than the scoop-obsessed press. That being the case, why did it broadcast such a highly tenuous tale without proper checking? Why did its journalists speculate in such a damaging way about Mr Litvinenko? And why, once the story had been shown to be nonsense, did it not admit its error and apologise?