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6th November 2009, 10:00am
From Panorama to Kabul - Byford's life in news
Mark Byford meets staff and students Mark Byford, BBC Deputy Director-General, gave an inspiring insight into his career to a packed auditorium at the University of Lincoln.

He was the latest high-profile speaker to visit the campus as part of the Lincoln School of Journalism's guest lecture series which has already seen world renowned journalist, author and documentary film maker John Pilger make an appearance.

Byford described how he was a third year law student at Leeds University in 1978 when he realised he wanted to be a journalist.

"I suppose I had a light bulb moment and the story that triggered my career ambitions was the shooting of Georgi Markov on Panorama," Byford told an audience of Journalism staff and students in the University's EMMTEC building.

So started a distinguished BBC career that saw him starting as a three week holiday relief to becoming Deputy Director-General in 2004 and more recently Head of BBC Journalism.

Byford has steered the BBC through many dark hours in recent years, not least the Hutton Inquiry and the fall-out from the sexed up dossiers to the debate on editorial standards after the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross broadcast on Radio 2.

"I was three weeks into my new job as Deputy Director-General when I lost my Chairman and Director General in quick succession. I realised pretty quickly I had a job to do so I'd better get on with it," he said.

He said as Head of Journalism it is the BBC's aim to provide the best journalism in the world.

He is proud of how the BBC covers the big stories like the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Obama's first year and the emergence of China and India as super powers and the fact that a significant percentage of British households still rely on and trust the BBC for their news coverage.

On the controversial issue of allowing Nick Griffin on Question Time, Byford said he absolutely stood by his decision and indeed in the run up to next year's election the BNP would make further appearances. "He won't be on every week or month but he will appear again," said Byford.

Speaking about the Brand/Ross debacle he said he felt "chastened after the incident and that it had been 100 per cent wrong."

He commented: "We had to learn lessons very quickly from it. It is of absolute critical importance that certain things are unacceptable in terms of editorial standards and this incident was a clear cut case of a broadcast that was totally unacceptable. Compliance on the programme was sorely lacking and insufficient."

Rounding off he spoke about the editorial brilliance of Robert Peston, Stephanie Flanders and Nick Robinson but held John Simpson as the pinnacle of BBC journalism saying "this man is truly what the BBC is all about integrity, honesty, trust and creativity".

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