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BBC chief attacks U.S. war coverage
April 24, 2003 1:51 PM   Subscribe

BBC chief attacks U.S. war coverage The head of the BBC has launched a broadside against American broadcasters, accusing them of "unquestioning" coverage of the Iraq war and blatant patriotism.
posted by turbanhead (50 comments total)

 
This is the same BBC that took Comical Ali seriously as a news source. Naturally the BBC Director General thinks everyone else should have also, because now his outfit wouldn't look so conspicuously like Monty Python.
posted by jfuller at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2003


In other news, the sky is blue, and 1+1 still equals 2.
posted by Mwongozi at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2003


In what way did they take him seriously? In that they broadcasted it without saying "this is all obvious bullshit"?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:10 PM on April 24, 2003


Uh, no shit. Anyone with half a brain could tell that US news coverage was brazenly hyper-pro-american. Then again, to question (even for a second) if everything we were (are) doing there is not being done for with the greatest motives and in the best way, you risk being labelled a terrorist, traitor, or losing your job or even worse, your spot along side the troops. Perhaps that's why the press did it. That and none of them have the balls to stand up to the 2nd grade wisdom of most Americans who take everything the government says as biblical truth and that America can do no wrong.

I'm glad I have alternative methods for gaining news. But it's sad that most of America gets all their news from FoxNews, CNN, and USA today, none of which showed a bit of journalistic hunger for the truth and balenced coverage.
posted by aacheson at 2:19 PM on April 24, 2003


I feel compelled to defend Fox News. Mostly because I find their synergistic combination of a Reuters newsfeed and Mad TV produces some of the best reporting. I particulary enjoyed their recent first person reality TV reporting work on the looting of Bhagdad.
posted by srboisvert at 2:30 PM on April 24, 2003


Uh, no shit. Anyone with half a brain could tell that US news coverage was brazenly hyper-pro-american.

I could not disagree with you more. I watched and listened to a lot of the coverage, and the only blatant flag waving that I saw took place on Fox News. To the exent that you wanted the "anti-American" point of view, all you had to do is switch to ABC, where Peter Jennings' coverage was about as anti-American as was the BBC's.
posted by Durwood at 2:34 PM on April 24, 2003


He (BBC Director-General Dyke) said impartiality meant giving a range of views, including those that were critical of the government.

"We are here for everyone in the UK, a trusted guide in a complex world.

"We perform this role best by exercising the freedom to air a wide range of opinion and to report the facts as best we can. In doing so, far from betraying the national interest, we're serving it."

This guy actually thinks about his job.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2003


This is the same BBC that took Comical Ali seriously as a news source

Actually if you watched the coverage, it was a source amongst many. This is called balanced reporting. Its should be noted that in fact on some parts of the BBC (Radio Five Live, Radio 4's 'Broadcasting House') much was made of disproving what the man was saying -- on Five's Drive programme laughing could be heard in the studio after one of his broadcasts. In other words what Pretty_Generic said.

The full text of Dyke's speach can be found at the BBC Press Office website (which is probably were Yahoo read it).

The most bizarre coverage I saw during the conflict was on the Chinese Channel 9 News on Sky TV in the UK. Everything was reported from the Iraqi POV; there were discussion programmes which consisted of two suits in the studio asking each other questions and politely answering them -- without the aid of footage. Although they were reporting the SARS virus as the second footnote story. Funny how that's bobbed to the top of the news agenda now that the war has apparently ended. Isn't it odd how all the detailed reporting of the past few months about Iraq has disappeared to be replaced by broad strokes again?
posted by feelinglistless at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2003


It's sad when more Americans get their news from the Daily Show than Fox News....then again, that's actually not a "bad thing".

(Ok the source for this stat was on Plastic.com, but I'm sure it's a real stat somewhere, at least I hope it is)
posted by CrazyJub at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2003


Ah, the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation. For a different perspective, one might consult this site.

And I have to agree with Durwood -- ABC and NPR in particular (and to a somewhat lesser extent CBS) were quite capable of providing the "negative spin" on every event in the war. Every perceived setback and allegation of atrocity was given breathless coverage, although we now know in hindsight little of it was founded. And that's just the broadcast media -- the New York Times and Boston Globe, among others, could barely restrain their glee when they (mistakenly) thought the war was going badly.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2003


Durwood,

Give me a general example of "anti-American" coverage from Peter Jennings, and please note that there is a difference between anti-American and raising questions.
posted by bas67 at 2:43 PM on April 24, 2003


To the exent that you wanted the "anti-American" point of view, all you had to do is switch to ABC, where Peter Jennings' coverage was about as anti-American as was the BBC's.

Not that I would really call the BBC "anti-American", but if by that you mean "willing to fairly present information that may reflect non-positively on those driving the war machine" I would put ABC back with the rest of the American pack. With, of course, one enormous exception.

Bizarre, isn't it, when the only network that is funded by the government is also the only one willing to question it?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2003


On second thought, I do remember Jennings muttering the following as WNT went into break:

"We will eat the babies of the infidel American invaders. I, Peter Jennings, a drug-addicted sodomite, absolutely hate the United States of America."


Could anyone find a link for this?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:57 PM on April 24, 2003


Give me a general example of "anti-American" coverage from Peter Jennings, and please note that there is a difference between anti-American and raising questions.

The media research center (albeit a conservative group) has maintained a section on Peter Jennings' anti-American reporting during the war here. Decide for yourself.
posted by Durwood at 3:02 PM on April 24, 2003


accusing them of... blatant patriotism.

That should be Strenuously Assertive Patriotism. It's an epidemic.
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2003


On second thought, the symptoms look more like nationalism than patriotism.
posted by homunculus at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2003


There's that word again. Sorry to harp on this, but I almost feel as though if no one does, the nuances between the two words will be lost forever.

patriotism

n : love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it

nationalism

n : the conviction that the culture and interests of your nation are superior to those of any other nation


FoxNews and MSBNC sacrifice nothing in their shameless jingoism. Well, maybe they sacrifice a bit of perspective and a bit of the truth.
posted by psmealey at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2003


Here's a sample from the Media Research Center:

Jennings Wonders If Hussein Cares What People Think of Him

Saddam Hussein sensitive and caring? Peter Jennings wrapped up his Wednesday night prime time special by sharing with viewers how he “wonders” sometimes: “Did Saddam Hussein ever understand what people thought about him? Did he care?”


I am continually amazed at just how much these right-wing nutjobs will twist absolutely anything other than wall-to-wall mindless flag-waving jingoism into The Enemy Within.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:12 PM on April 24, 2003


Thanks homunculus, my point exactly (though mine wasn't as eloquent).
posted by psmealey at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2003


watched and listened to a lot of the coverage, and the only blatant flag waving that I saw took place on Fox News.

CNN's version of not reporting the news is more mealy-mouthed People magazine coverage; endless human interest stories about the troops in place of actually chasing major stories. I suppose it's not as obviously ridiculous as Fox, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:16 PM on April 24, 2003


Durwood I stopped reading after the first dozen or so. I saw no single piece of evidence of "Anti American" reporting in those I read.

Of the first dozen the vast majority were of the same type (the reason I stopped reading in fact was due to the extremely repetitive nature) Peter Jennings did stories on celebrities being accosted for their public anti-war views. One may make the case that showcasing people's right to freedom of speech and dissent without fear of repercussion or reprisal is a very PRO American sentiment, at least it was the last time I checked the constitution.

I do agree with the assessment that the US media was horribly slanted during the conflict. The best example of this was the US POW/KIA situation. Why was it ok for the TV media to show footage of Iraqi POW's and KIA's on a daily if not hourly basis but when it came to US dead or captured they would not show footage? War is a messy, deadly and destructive business and if we endeavor to wage it the public should witness exactly what the results good and bad are.
posted by aaronscool at 3:21 PM on April 24, 2003


I'm glad I have alternative methods for gaining news. But it's sad that most of America gets all their news from FoxNews, CNN, and USA today, none of which showed a bit of journalistic hunger for the truth and balenced coverage.

Found CNN to be like Fox of old and Fox, way too over board for me, this having a LiL brother in Iraq, plus Fox was one of the few news sources who did not have an embedded journalist with his division of Marines.

Not all the embedded journalist were American either. Did anyone note that?

Why was it ok for the TV media to show footage of Iraqi POW's and KIA's on a daily if not hourly basis but when it came to US dead or captured they would not show footage?

You saw Iraqis capture live or contained, but did you see them interviewed. Also I would not want to see my brother dead before hearing the news first, please think of others before you think of yourself.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2003


Durwood I stopped reading after the first dozen or so. I saw no single piece of evidence of "Anti American" reporting in those I read

Oh well, I guess we see things differently.

By the way, how do you define "anti-American" bias in reporting anyway? Doesn't a continued emphasis on the same negative themes and ideas regarding American's involvement in the war constitute anti-American bias? Does someone really have to come out and say "I hate America" for coverage to be anti-American?
posted by Durwood at 3:42 PM on April 24, 2003


Personally I considered the BBC coverage of the Iraq war severely lacking in real balance: a considerable lack of showing dead and injured, mutilated and crippled Iraqi men women and children.

There was far too many items on cool hardware, and not enough "reality of war" thrown into the mix, for me.

The BBC World Service Radio, was on the other hand pretty darn good, since it has a worldwide perspective, which domestic channels just don't have.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:47 PM on April 24, 2003


Does anyone know what the troops heard for news?
I was told my brother's unit had a radio where they could listen to the BBC when they had a chance to do so.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:00 PM on April 24, 2003


Does someone really have to come out and say "I hate America" for coverage to be anti-American?

Ummm...by definition...Yes?

Disagreeing with the policies and actions of a country are far different concepts from wanting to destroy, dismantle and cause harm to the it. You're definition of "Anti-American" really seems to be defined better as Anti-Iraq war. These are two quite diametrically different concepts that conservatives like to try and lump together.

Dissent is what this country was founded on man.

You saw Iraqis capture live or contained, but did you see them interviewed.

I saw and heard several interviews with Iraqi POW's, usually they were short and informal but they did happen.

Also I would not want to see my brother dead before hearing the news first, please think of others before you think of yourself.

With all respect as much as it would be a great tragedy to see any American soldier dead the truth is that some did in fact die. Images of the dead would be, I'm sure, a source of great personal sorrow for any family member but it is a sad fact of war. Were the Iraqi killed afforded the same respect by the American media? No, the truth is they were more than happy to show the images of Iraqi dead but deliberately shielded viewers from news footage that showed US dead or wounded. Is this unbiased or honest coverage?
posted by aaronscool at 4:02 PM on April 24, 2003


Durwood, even if Peter Jennings did disagree with the Iraqi war (which I saw no evidence of in your link), I can't understand your assertion that reporting a view other than that espoused by our government constitutes being an "Anti-American". ??
posted by harja at 4:28 PM on April 24, 2003


on preview, agree w/ aaronscool
posted by harja at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2003


I find the BBC's claim very disingenuous for two reasons

1) Before the war they were blandly anti-war with little regard to objective reporting.

2) After the war began their coverage was similar to that of most American media (excluding Fox of course), with a British military slant.

The BBC is bashing America, talk about your ratings ploy and pandering to listeners. I find hard to give credence to people who criticize others for the same things they obviously do. Why does the BBC get away with American media does? Why the doulbe standard? Oh I know, BBC is from Europe so it must be blame free. You know, I'm/was anti-war and I am anti-Bush, but please I'm also about being fair.

Unlike the many of the fundies on MEFI I don't support bullshit just because it reaffirms my would view, it's sad that so many here do.
posted by Bag Man at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2003


For cable I can see your point aaronscool, but local tv coverage?

I do see where you are coming from as far as, you showed Iraqi's. Now I did see some American Soldiers dead, vehicles a blazed with men inside, yet it was quick and not re-shown unlike with the Iraqis. Hey, maybe they would like the same respect so agree there.

Also death is something everyone experiences, so why show it on both sides?
posted by thomcatspike at 4:33 PM on April 24, 2003


that reporting a view other than that espoused by our government constitutes being an "Anti-American". ??

20/20 did a report at the very beginning talking about how the media took sides, even with their war logos. He even pointed out where ABC stood, they tried to portray a neutral stance. From ABC not me.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:37 PM on April 24, 2003


thomascatspike - and your point?
posted by harja at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2003


thomascatspike - are you saying the media taking sides is anti-american, or what?
posted by harja at 4:44 PM on April 24, 2003


A question for Aussies, who let that Rupert fucker out of it's cage?
posted by joemeek at 4:48 PM on April 24, 2003


are you saying the media taking sides is anti-american, or what?

When the media takes the side of the enemy, or actively spins the reporting to erroneously show that the American forces are losing, while choosing not to report artrocities of the Hussien regime, then, yes sir, it is indeed anti-American.
posted by hama7 at 6:12 PM on April 24, 2003


First, in order to show anti-American bias, you have to show that they report untruthtfully and/or in an unbalanced way. In other words, it's not anti-American to run a few stories a week that shows some US actions in a bad light, if in the same week they run ten or twelve stories that show some US actions in good light.

But you don't notice when Jennings reports things that reflect well on America, because you expect it.

Second, critically examining actions taken by US authorities and forces at the behest of the Bush administration is not anti-American: it is the essence of what it is to be American. It is American to speak truth as you understand it, and to not let evil be done in your name.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:28 PM on April 24, 2003


A lot of the pro-Bush Neocons try to equate being anti-them with being anti-American.

It speaks of their arrogance, IMO, and is essentially just a simple ploy to stifle dissent.

Hermann Goering, would be proud.
posted by Blue Stone at 6:45 PM on April 24, 2003


Bwah-hahahahaha!

"And now, from the country that made 'The Scud Stud' Wolf Blitzer a household name, it's 'Gulf War II - This Time, It's Family!'"

Please. Am I the only person who thought the term "embedded" translated to "kiss-ass"? The media didn't just take sides, it killed people and stole stuff! I thought I was cynical before all this started, but now...now, it's polished cynicism.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:14 PM on April 24, 2003


Hermann Goering, would be proud.

So you compare the American media to the Nazis? That's twisted.
posted by Durwood at 7:44 PM on April 24, 2003


When the media takes the side of the enemy, or actively spins the reporting to erroneously show that the American forces are losing, while choosing not to report artrocities of the Hussien regime, then, yes sir, it is indeed anti-American.

Good job that never happened, then. Anyway, the best way to identify someone's media criticism as specious is to see whether it's being judged against the criterion of 'anti-Americanism'.
posted by riviera at 8:05 PM on April 24, 2003


Durwood, here's a choice quote from Hermann Goering's testimony at the Nuremberg Trials-

"Naturally the common people don't want war, but it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship...

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders...

"All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."



Hermann Goering would be proud of the Bush government and it's friendly media's, denouncements of those who opposed the Iraq war.

He would be using the same tactics.

I'll leave the twisting and distortions to the Neocons and their lapdog media outlets.
posted by Blue Stone at 8:45 PM on April 24, 2003


Pot, meet Kettle.

America gave the world biased reporting on Foxnews, while the Beeb gave the world uncritical lies.

Oh, and it got so bad that people who were involved in the fighting actually turned off the Beeb coverage? The Beeb whose coverage does go a bit heavily towards condescention of America and Americans?

Yeah. Pot, meet kettle.
posted by swerdloff at 8:50 PM on April 24, 2003


Am I way off base, or has the coverage of this war had more of a narcissistic edge to it than those of the past?

It seemed to me that the news outlets (NPR or the BBC being no exception) spent more time on the individual reporter's personal experience reporting the news than it did with the news being reported, either with a pro-States slant or not.

I wonder if there is a tie-in to the slanting, as reporters were more aware of their careers than ever before.
posted by jazzkat11 at 10:45 PM on April 24, 2003


Oh, and it got so bad that people who were involved in the fighting actually turned off the Beeb coverage?

Either that was a bad link, or you're making an utterly spurious connection. Anyway, the American troops tuned to Fox News, and British troops to the BBC World Service. The former, I suppose, along the lines that you're more likely to tune to your local radio station when your football team is playing, even if the match is covered by Five Live.

The domestic BBC coverage was in many ways a mess -- sticking John Simpson in Kurdistan was less than smart, and I never want to see another shot from RAF Fairford, ever again. But it was less of a mess than ITN's (case in point: Bill fucking Neely with his Marine helmet, while the actual British commanders dressed more like foreign correspondents) or Sky's rolling wargame effort. But the US feeds showed a completely different war, and that's not a compliment.

Pot meet kettle, swerdloff? Only if you've been smoking large amounts of kettle as well.

Anyway, Kate Adie's in Iraq now. The real war must be about to start.
posted by riviera at 11:26 PM on April 24, 2003


Swerdloff I'm very confused about your links.

In the first BBC link which you labeled "the Beeb gave the world uncritical lies" the story is a recount of reporters actually interviewing the peasant purported to have shot down an American Apache. The peasant denies he shot anything down and that he found the Apache in his field. If I'm to assume you meant the BBC was lying in this article then you mean to say that the Iraqi peasant really did shoot down an Apache with a rusty hunting rifle?

In the second link labeled "turned off the Beeb coverage" I find an article about a licensing fee dispute for the BBC but nothing about soldiers (or anyone else for that matter) turning the BBC off.

At this point I don't see how what you've said holds any water...kettle or no.
posted by aaronscool at 12:02 AM on April 25, 2003


It helps to remember that the BBC isn't just a news channel, it's an entire corporation with many channels and news programmes. You'd expect a completely different editorial slant on Radio Five than on Newsnight, for example.

It seemed to me that the news outlets (NPR or the BBC being no exception) spent more time on the individual reporter's personal experience reporting the news than it did with the news being reported, either with a pro-States slant or not.

I think the lack of reliable information coming from official sources meant that news outlets HAD to rely on the reporters on the ground. I remember a BBC embedded reporter being interviewed when the hospital looting started. The anchor said that the (UK) Government had claimed that the only hospitals being looted were ones for the elite. 'I think the Government has been misinformed,' the reporter said. Ho ho.
posted by Summer at 2:40 AM on April 25, 2003


When the media takes the side of the enemy, or actively spins the reporting to erroneously show that the American forces are losing, while choosing not to report artrocities of the Hussien regime, then, yes sir, it is indeed anti-American.

Two possible responses (I can't choose) :

a) Smart-ass comment about looting and 'artrocities'
b) mock-serious question about what people ought to do when 'the enemy' and 'American forces' are phrases that parse out to mean the same darn people.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:16 AM on April 25, 2003


Bag Man - 'BBC...Before the war they were blandly anti-war with little regard to objective reporting'

Before, during and after the war I have only experienced neutral - pro war feeling in BBC news coverage. The BBC was certainly not a platform for anti-war sentiment, they covered the same talking points (defined by the pentagon) as other outlets. The quality of debate, on say 'Question Time', was low and dealt with straw-man arguments on both sides leaving the viewer none the wiser (as I have said before, the quality of debate was much better here or at kuro5hin). Television debates that I saw allowed ad hominem attacks as well as people ignoring or avoiding direct questions, neither of which are tolerated here.
As someone has said, the BBC coverage of the war could leave you thinking this was the War Against Buildings, because that was all you ever saw getting blown up.
I would contend that if I know of the Project for a New American Century, news reporters who are covering the war should also know about it, is that too much to ask?

The media management of this war was half of the battle.
posted by asok at 4:30 AM on April 25, 2003


The media management of this war was half of the battle.

And continues, with little respite.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:34 AM on April 25, 2003


Before, during and after the war I have only experienced neutral - pro war feeling in BBC news coverage

So you call sponsoring a webpage for anti-war protesters to submit their pics from rallies unbiased? The BBC was as bad as Fox or Sky, they just advocated the other point of view. You're right one respect, during the war the BBC was about as "pro-war" or more like deferential to Bush and Blair as CNN. Is being deferential "pro-war" or akin to Nazi propagandists? Please, don't be a fundy...the answer is NO....In fact that's just reporting what is told to in an unbiased way, now context should be added. I'll give you most that CNN, BBC, etc. could have done a better job. The only "pro-war" stations were FOX and perhaps SKY.
posted by Bag Man at 11:42 AM on April 26, 2003


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