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The BBC is not above reproach

The BBC is not above reproach, as its reporting of the Iraq War demonstrates. Since the start of the Iraq war, some critics of the BBC have dubbed it the "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation." A senior cabinet minister, John Reid, the chairman of the ruling Labor Party, has accused it of behaving as "a friend of Baghdad." "It's almost as if the BBC has its own war plan and if the army don't conform to what they think it should be doing then it's a 'setback'," said one unnamed British government official.

The BBC's own defence correspondent, Paul Adams delivered a devastating critique in a memo to senior BBC executives last week. "I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering 'significant casualties,'" he wrote. "This is simply NOT TRUE. Nor is it true to say ... that coalition forces are fighting 'guerrillas.' It may be guerrilla warfare but they are not guerrillas. And who dreamt up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price'? The truth is exactly the opposite. The gains are huge and the costs still relatively low. This is real warfare, however one-sided, and losses are to be expected."

BBC boss admits 'daily' mistakes in Iraq Jason Deans Friday March 28, 2003

The Guardian A senior BBC News executive today admitted that the reporting of allied military claims in Iraq that later prove false, such as heralding the fall of Umm Qasr at least nine times, had "left the public feeling less well-informed than it should be".

Mark Damazer, the deputy director of BBC News, also admitted the BBC had been making mistakes "on a daily basis" during the first week of the Iraq conflict, but denied there was any deliberate bias towards either the pro or anti-war camps.

"I don't deny for a moment that the accumulation of things that have happened in the first week, such as the false claims about the fall of Umm Qasr and the surrender of the Iraqi 51st division, have left the public feeling they are not as well informed as they should be," Mr Damazer said. "But it's perfectly proper for us to say 'a British defence source has said there's an uprising in Basra' and not report it as gospel truth. We attribute wherever possible to a source. The secret is attribution, qualification and scepticism," he added. Mr Damazer said allegations by the anti-war lobby that the BBC had become "shackled" by the government and military were "profoundly ill-judged and unfair".

"Although it's unquestionably true that we make mistakes, and on a daily basis, we don't only make them in [a pro-war] direction," he added, speaking last night at a meeting of Media Workers Against the War.

Mr Damazer admitted one of the areas where the BBC had made mistakes was in its use of language, but that it was seeking to put this right. "If we have used the word 'liberate' in our own journalism, as in 'such and such a place had been liberated by allied forces', that's a mistake," he said. "That is the wrong language to use without evidence of Iraqi people feeling as though they have been liberated,"

Mr Damazer added. He said it was also "not good" to open a news bulletin by announcing that the death of two soldiers was the "worst possible news for the armed forces". Mr Damazer added that although the death of two soldiers was obviously the "worst possible news for their families", far worse things could happen on the battlefield with far greater loss of life, for which language such as "the worst possible news for the armed forces" would be more appropriate.

What makes the BBC's behavior particularly heinous in the current circumstances is the relentless indulgence of its penchant for what might be politely termed "moral equivalence" at a time when Britain is at war with a brutal enemy and its servicemen are dying on the battlefield (remember, the BBC is a public service broadcaster funded by British taxpayers).

This is not to suggest the BBC should offer a diet of jingoistic reports from the front or prejudice the standards of journalism that other major media organizations strive to maintain. But nor should it allow its anti-Western petticoat to show as it competes with Al-Jazeera to prove its objectivity and independence.





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