The Matrix Project is an effort to document personal factors that undermine powerful journalists’ claims of objectivity and impartiality. Are factors such as an elite education, establishment connections, personal wealth and interests in rival fields compatible with journalistic integrity?
This page looks at BBC journalist Andrew Marr. For more information on the database click here.
Learn about the significance of a private/Oxbridge education here
Andrew Marr attended the private/independent schools Dundee High School and Loretto School in Musselburgh
He read English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Learn about the significance of the Revolving Door here
Andrew Marr has no significant professional experience in politics or business
Learn about the significance of Establishment Connections here
Andrew showed himself to be on unusually close terms with David Cameron when the then-PM hosted a book launch for Marr at 10 Downing Street. “Remarkably, an awkward question managed to breach the bonhomie,” Private Eye reported. “Liz Thomson, co-editor of the website ‘Book-Brunch’, asked Marr if having Cameron host the book launch ‘mightn’t compromise his position as impartial political interviewer for the BBC” (Private Eye, Books & Bookmen column, Issue 1376, 19 September – 2 October, 2014)
Marr was also on intimate terms with Tony Blair according to an Evening Standard diarist who noted that Marr and his wife Jackie had been “hosting intimate dinner parties for Labourites Tony Blair, David Miliband and Tessa Jowell. Blair even returned the favour by having the pair over at Chequers, back when he had the keys”. Again, this was when Marr was the supposedly impartial BBC Political Editor (the most important political reporter in the country) and Blair was PM.
Salary/Indications of Wealth
Learn about the significance of journalists with an unusual level of wealth here
Andrew Marr was the 12th highest earner on the BBC’s “stars salaries” list in 2020-21 with an annual salary of £335,000-£339,999 (source)
As a point of reference, the Office for National Statistics list the average UK salary for 2021 as £26,193
Complaints / apologies /controversies
Learn about the significance of complaints/apologies here
Israel-Palestine Complaint Upheld – Press Gazette report that Andrew Marr breached BBC editorial guidelines in comment about “lots of Palestinian kids being killed” – the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit admitted that the comment ““risked misleading audiences” since “in the absence of any evidence to support the reference to ‘lots’ of children being killed at the time of transmission it seems to us to have risked misleading audiences on a material point.”
Super-Injunction Apology – Marr admitted in 2011 to taking out a super-injunction in 2008 to stop journalists reporting on an affair and said he was “embarrassed” to have taken this course of action
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, who twice contested Marr’s super-injunction, said: “As a leading BBC interviewer who is asking politicians about failures in judgment, failures in their private lives, inconsistencies, it was pretty rank of him to have an injunction while working as an active journalist.”
“I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists,” Marr said.
Iraq War Triumphalism – According to Media Lens, Andrew Marr’s impartiality was called into question during his reporting of the invasion of Iraq. “Andrew Marr has dismayed licence-payers with apologias for New Labour in general and Tony Blair in particular,” wrote former BBC reporter and producer, Tim Luckhurst.
Marr himself declared, early on in the war: “I don’t think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he’s somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.” (Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, April 9, 2003)
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
If you really talk with a politician about their in tray, and the problems of rival departments, or of dodgy past initiatives, it is hard to avoid seeing things their way. The same perspective that gives you insight, also blunts your hostility… then you drift closer to them emotionally and may very well flinch from putting the boot in when they have failed in some wayANDREW MARR, ‘My Trade – A Short History of British Journalism,’ Macmillan, London, 2004, p.184
There is literally nobody on this little blue planet who doesn’t have opinions. At the BBC we do our level best to leave them at the door but if you don’t have some opinions you aren’t thinking, and if you aren’t thinking, how useful a political interviewer could you be?ANDREW MARR
Andrew Marr had an elite education, he married into the Establishment, he earns more than 10 times the salary of the average Briton and, by his own admission, had relationships with politicians that were close enough to compromise his reporting.
Impartial? Independent? Holding the powerful to account?
Learn more about the Matrix Project here.
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