With Dominic Wightman, the Editor of Country Squire Magazine under attack from BBC Wildlife Presenter Chris Packham and his team of lawyers, Oriel’s Hannah Soukupova asks him why he has decided to put up a fight rather than remove articles which Packham claims are defamatory.
Hannah: Dom, you could just delete the articles. What’s the big deal?
Dominic: Chris Packham has built his career on licence fee paying members of the British public like you and me. When you suck on the public teat, expect some accountability. I believe that Packham lied repeatedly to crowdfund thousands of pounds from the same British public who pay TV licence fees. He should be held to account. He should face up to the truth. Country Squire Magazine dared publish what we fully and still believe to be the truth. We are not so spineless as to delete it. In any case I enjoy taking down bullies – it’s such a worthy sport – and Packham is such a tawdry little bully.
Hannah: The costs of libel cases can be exorbitant, no?
Dominic: To the loser, particularly. Seeing Packham and his partner take the stand will be where truth gets an airing. Priceless.
Hannah: What’s your endgame?
Dominic: I want Packham to apologise very publicly and to resign from the BBC. That is all. Failing that – and I suspect Packham is no gentleman so will not voluntarily resign – I want Packham permanently sacked from the BBC. Let the truth out.
Hannah: The BBC you have described as “accessory” to the subject matter of the case?
Dominic: No, I described the BBC as accessory to the well-documented damage that Packham has caused to the British countryside. Come to think of it, I suppose the BBC is accessory to the crowdfunding scandal in the sense that few would have paid attention to the crowdfunder had Packham not gained celebrity, despite multiple infringements, via the BBC’s promotion of him. I am not suggesting and have never suggested that the BBC were directly involved in the crowdfunding.
Hannah: You’ve also mentioned a faux ‘class war’?
Dominic: For too long the BBC has promoted scientifically lightweight Marxist activists like Packham as experts – disguising their harmful views on rural and environmental matters as ‘progressive’ – calculated to overthrow an imagined capitalist countryside overclass. This is hogwash concocted by bitter old Trots on townhouse desks which never reflected the reality of farming or landowning. There is no such overclass – the countryside billionaires I know are all eco-chuggers – the countryside is actually comprised of people who try their very best. Most British farmers are just hard-working families grafting the land to feed the nation and earn a living just like other essential workers. It’s a magnificent industry which every person in Great Britain is a part of and should be mighty proud of, especially when they buy British.
Hannah: What is wrong with BBC Presenters also being political activists?
Dominic: A lot. We don’t live in Russia or North Korea. I quote from its charter: ‘The BBC is committed to achieving due impartiality in all its output. This commitment is fundamental to our reputation, our values and the trust of audiences. The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.’ It’s there in black and white. We need to end this era of BBC presenter activists now. The BBC should be informing not steering those who pay for it to exist.
Hannah: Is Packham’s partner Charlotte Corney part of the legal threat?
Dominic: No, but she will play a large part in the case should it go to court. This is a shame. I know people who know her, and I fully believe she absolutely loves the tigers which feature in this case. She means well in her zoo work and genuinely cares. She is sound compared to Packham, just not into business as one needs to be to run such a zoo these days.
Hannah: I read that you have received threats from animal rights extremists because of the Packham threats?
Dominic: I wondered whether some of the communications might have come from Packham himself using sock puppets. I have evidence of that from his past. It’s amazing the muck that comes out when the public know that a public figure is being scrutinised. The gagging order side of things has been particularly eye-opening and them taking the stand should shine a light on all those murkier aspects of Packham’s celebrity. I cannot say that I enjoy the threatening communications, but they don’t really affect me much either – I’ve had stalkers for a decade and I’m now fairly immune to keyboard losers. The most extreme of the animal rights extremists don’t really bother with me much as I do not hunt nor own a laboratory experimenting on animals.
Hannah: Why do you think animal rights extremists have become so effective at getting their views put across over recent years?
Dominic: The animal rights lunatics may have a foothold at the BBC, in Holyrood, the Senedd and in the Palace of Westminster – these days low calibre individuals tend to go into politics and will seek out any old bandwagon – but they are loathed and outnumbered in the countryside. We countrysiders are appalled how they crowdfund using faked videos, dodgy academics and how their army of fanatical, middle class saboteurs respond a thousand times each to their own surveys while threatening the very farmers who feed them.
Hannah: How much of a hit to the animal rights extremists would losing Packham be?
Dominic: I am not suggesting for one minute that the animal rights extremists ‘lose’ Packham. They fit together hand in glove. I want Packham – whether as a contractor or employee – to be barred from public monies, so from the BBC. Packham’s views are nuts but he’s less extremist than some of that shower. Hiding behind cuddly animals is sinister and always has been – we all love animals, and we all expect animal rights to be protected come what may, just not by charlatans. I mean, take a look at what the League of Cruel Sports pays its staff – more than 62% of its income goes on staff costs. These gravy trains are little if anything to do with protecting animals.
Hannah: I see Packham has been involved with Extinction Rebellion. What are your views on Extinction Rebellion?
Dominic: Dinosaur Packham and his myopic Extinction Rebellion groomers and saboteurs – suffering themselves from a petrified adolescence – want to see an end to meat-eating and to farms. With the technological revolution afoot across the British countryside, farmers are doing a fantastic job, environmental standards are rapidly improving towards a position of sustainability we all strive for, so Packham’s and ER’s is an utterly nonsensical position to hold.
Hannah: Good luck in your fight!