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How the chemical explosives story got buried
11th October, 2006

by Sunny Hundal
Editor

There seems to be more than meets the eye to the story of two men arrested last week for possessing chemicals, rocket launchers and more.

Why did the story not make national headlines as it should have? Various reasons seem to be attributed to this. Yesterday I spoke to one BBC exec who found it "utterly bizarre" they missed the story.

He first saw it on AIM magazine's sister website Pickled Politics and flagged it up to others within the Beeb who were caught unaware.

The BBC national news team relies on various channels to feed them information. Among them are their own reporters, feeds from news wire services such as PA and stories flagged up by local radio teams. In this case, for whatever reason, it seems neither of these channels fed the story back to "the system", I was told.

This came from a source who would have loved to do the story. But PA did not pick it up, BBC Radio Lancashire did not flag it up and the police did not inform the national press. You may ask why they didn't? Wasn't it a big story?

Well, it seems, not according to the police. Another reporter I spoke to today said the police played down their statements after initial comments. Robert Cottage is still remanded in custody, as the Burnley Citizen reported, and will appear at Burnley Crown Court on the 23rd.

But contrary to reports in the Pendle Today and NW Evening Mail, David Bolus Jackson has been released, as I understand it, and will not appear in court. I have been told the police have also backed down on their statements insinuating there was a "masterplan".

So there are a few added complications. It may have been that because the police subsequently played down the arrests the story was not picked up.

Once the national media did get wind of the story through blogs it was old news. Firstly, I was told, they have to be contemporaneous with stories. Secondly, digging into the story once the men had been remanded in custody for a few days may jeapordise a fair trial and be in contempt of court.

Admittedly, for a large organisation such as the BBC, this is a very poor excuse. But given that I spoke to people genuinely interested in running the story, it seems like the most plausible one.

This also makes it difficult to ask too many questions now about the arrests or the impending trial in case it looks like an editorial could influence the trial. Only basic facts, as the Asian Image reported, can be allowed.

But it is perfectly legitimate to ask why many of these restrictions do not seem to apply when British Muslim suspects are picked up or a police raid is conducted, as was the case in Forest Gate.

Either way it looks as if there are a few red faces around the BBC and some parts of Fleet Street. It is likely the media will be out in full force on the 23rd.




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