Justin Schlosberg

Covering the cover-up: The Hutton report in UK television news

The Hutton report of 2004 was the outcome of an inquiry set up to examine 'the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the death of Dr David Kelly' (Hutton report 2003), a government intelligence analyst and biological weapons expert. Kelly was the identified source for an allegation made on BBC Radio Four's Today programme that sparked one of the most vociferous and public attacks on the BBC from a sitting government in its 80-year history. Whilst the report sparked allegations of 'whitewash', the controversy surrounding Kelly's actual death was to remain marginalised for the best part of seven years. During this time evidence has accumulated casting increasing doubt over the safety of Hutton's explanation. This paper presents findings from a study of television news coverage of the controversy between 2004 and 2010, based on qualitative and quantitative content analysis of news texts.

Keywords: Hutton report, television news, cover-up, conspiracy theories, propaganda model


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Note on the contributor

Justin Schlosberg is a visiting tutor and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London. His primary research interest is in the relationship between the media and justice and his thesis is tentatively titled 'Covering crimes of the powerful: Media spectacles of accountability'. He has recently worked on research projects for the Open Society Foundation and Media Trust examining the state of digital media and local news in the UK. Email j.schlosberg@gold.ac.uk