Ex-Army chief attacks BBC drama
A former head of the Army has accused BBC1 of "gross insensitivity (and) gross arrogance" for screening a drama which portrayed bullying among troops.
General Lord Dannatt slammed the drama Accused as "a nasty programme inappropriately aired while the Army is conducting difficult operations in Afghanistan".
Accused was broadcast by BBC1 on Monday night despite a formal protest from the serving head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, who wrote to BBC Director-General Mark Thompson ahead of the screening to express his dismay.
The second episode of the six-part drama starred Mackenzie Crook as a bullying corporal and was written by Jimmy McGovern, the Bafta-winning TV dramatist whose credits include Cracker and The Street.
Gen Dannatt, one of Gen Wall's predecessors as Chief of General Staff, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Accused portrayed bullying that has got no place in fact or fiction in the 21st century, it portrayed a warped loyalty that is completely unrecognisable in the Army."
Gen Dannatt said the drama failed to challenge the level of bullying portrayed on-screen or the idea that it would be tolerated by commanders and showed alcohol being drunk on the front line in a way which did not happen in reality. It showed a cover-up being staged to pass off a suicide as a result of enemy action.
"None of these things were challenged and therefore people could have thought this is what goes on, and it doesn't," he said.
Asked whether the BBC should treat the Army differently from other institutions in society in works of fiction, Gen Dannatt replied: "You could make a case to say that, while the Army is conducting difficult and dangerous operations on behalf of the nation."
Speaking before the broadcast, a BBC spokeswoman said: "In the promotion of this new drama series by award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern, it has been made clear that Accused is a work of fiction." McGovern also stood by his script, saying he had "the greatest respect" for British troops.
Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, said: "This wasn't in any way a docu-drama or documentary nor a campaigning piece. It was a piece of fiction, written about different elements of moral issues like loyalty, guilt, the nature of being able or not able to kill and something that spirals out of control. The test this drama should be put to is whether it is a good piece of fiction or not."