Friday, January 5, 2007
Leading dissidents from the former Soviet Union have demanded
an investigation into the BBC Russian Service, The Daily Telegraph
Reports. The probe is to check the accusations that the BBC had
caved in to pressure to be less critical of President Vladimir
The dissidents have addressed Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general,
demanding an examination of what they claim is a string of examples
of pro-Putin bias on the taxpayer-funded service, which has a
weekly audience of two million.
The service went off air in Moscow and St Petersburg last month
around the time of the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko,
a former officer in the Russian security service. “Unexplained
technical difficulties” with the BBC’s local partners
were blamed, but there is still no service in Moscow.
The dissidents, led by Oleg Gordievsky, the former KGB spy turned
MI6 agent, and Vladimir Bukovsky, an author who spent 12 years
in Soviet prison camps, are particularly angered by the unexpected
axing of a programme presented by Seva Novgorodsev that had run
for 19 years.
Novgorodsev, who still broadcasts on the Russian Service, received
the MBE from the Queen in 2004. His programme regularly had guests
who were enemies of the Moscow regime, such as Litvinenko and
the journalist Anna Politkovskaya whose murder he was investigating.
The BBC has also received a protest letter signed by 1,000 listeners
around the world.
The dissidents’ letter states: “At a time when Britain
needs a strong voice in Russia more than at any point over the
past decade, the taxpayer-funded BBC Russian Service radio seems
to have considerably mellowed in its tone towards the Russian
”By design or by neglect, it has become more accommodating
of Russian government views, dispensing with difficult questions
and denying a platform to some critics.
“Is the BBC Russian Service trying to soften up its news
coverage mindful of the Kremlin’s ever-watchful eye over
the airwaves? The UK taxpayer funds the BBC World Service so that
Britain can have a strong voice in the world and it should not
A BBC spokesman said: “The service remains an important
and strong source of impartial and independent news and current
affairs renowned for asking difficult questions on behalf of its
We reject any suggestion that we have made compromises in our
questioning of any point of view in any debate.”