Rebecca Television covers the whole of the UK but includes a built-in bias to issues concerning Wales. It’s independent, does not accept advertising or sponsorship and depends on donations to cover its costs.
The Editor is the Irish-born journalist Paddy French. He was a current affairs producer on the ITV Wales current affairs strand Wales This Week for nearly ten years. He left ITV in 2008 and now lives in France.
Photographed in 2000 holding a copy of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal report, Messham was described in its pages as “severely damaged psychologically”. Photo: Phil Noble / PA
HOW WAS it that Stephen Messham — a “severely damaged psychologically” man — was allowed to accuse a senior Tory politician of child abuse on a national current affairs programme when those same allegations had been dismissed as unreliable twenty years earlier?
Messham, the 49-year-old former resident of the Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham, was the key witness in the BBC’s now notorious early November edition of Newsnight about child abuse in North Wales.
Messham claimed he’d been sexually abused by a senior Tory politician while he was in care.
Newsnight did not identify the man but a frenzy of speculation on the internet meant that Lord McAlpine was quickly — and falsely — “outed” as the alleged abuser.
A week later Messham saw a photograph of Lord McAlpine and declared he was not the man who had abused him.
The media firestorm that followed this disastrous broadcast forced the BBC’s newly-appointed Director General, former Newsnight editor George Entwistle, to resign.
It also cost the editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Iain Overton, his job.
It was the Bureau’s lead reporter Angus Stickler, a former BBC journalist, who came up with the idea for Newsnight and he presented the item.
On the morning of the broadcast, Overton tweeted:
“If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.
The night before Overton had attended an Oxford University Union debate where Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick, himself a former Newsnight journalist, asked him if the unidentified politician was McAlpine.
The Observer quotes Overton as saying: “Well, you said it.”
On the day of the broadcast, Michael Crick spoke to Lord McAlpine who denied that he was involved in child abuse — and said he would sue if he was named.
Newsnight did not contact the politician because it decided not to name him.
So why did Stickler, an experienced reporter who won the Sony Radio Academy Award for the best news journalist in 2006, make such an elementary mistake?