Kevin Marsh, editor of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme is to stand down from his role after three-and-a-half years, during which he steered the flagship show through the Iraq war and the Hutton Report - just as a novel about strange goings on at the BBC is published by one of his former colleagues.Marsh had been editor of the 'Today' programme since November 2002 just prior to the invasion of Iraq and was its editor as the programme became embroiled in the Hutton Report, which was sparked after the infamous two-way interview of reporter Andrew Gilligan by John Humphrys.The book, "The Dream of the Decade - The London Novels" by Afshin Rattansi has been widely publicised in the United States ahead of its official UK publication. The UK Daily Mail - one of the BBC's harshest critics - has called it a "fascinating read.
".The final part of the book traces the career path of a trainee journalist at Britain's most influential news organisation. Rattansi was present when Marsh replaced editor, Rod Liddle, who was forced to resign when BBC management found a column he wrote for The Guardian to be incompatible with his position at Today.
Afshin Rattansi denied that the publication of his novel had anything to do with Marsh's move but joked that Marsh would certainly find his book interesting reading. The novel has been widely praised by the editors of many literary household names, including Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan as well as Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago.As to the Marsh departure, Tim Luckhurst in the Observer wrote: "There was irony in Marsh's position as editor responsible for Andrew Gilligan's notorious May 2003 broadcast about the Iraq dossier. He was appointed to repair damage the BBC believed had been done to Today's reputation by his swashbuckling predecessor Rod Liddle.
It was Liddle who favoured controversial exclusives and appointed Gilligan; Marsh's approach was less flamboyant.".A friend of Marsh reportedly says: 'Kevin has never really recovered from Hutton. He felt he was blamed for it and he felt responsible.'.
As to producers at Today, one was quoted as saying: 'He had a very rough ride. He has not been happy here since.'.And yet anoter claimed the legacy of the run-up to the war against Iraq has affected the programme's reporting: 'There is not enough of our own journalism any more. The post-Hutton response has been to make us a bit too solid and bureaucratic. Nowadays the suits think that if you let people do their own thing they will make mistakes.
As long as the audience figures are good they are happy to see us emasculated.'.Luckhurst again, "Since Hutton his editorship has been a holding operation, designed to stabilise, not innovate.".It was well known that Marsh did not want the job as editor - what The Dream of the Decade reveals about working with him at the BBC, we shall have to see..Edward Victor is a London-based agent.
By: Edward Victor