BBC’s Iraq Inquiry coverage (and impartiality rules) under scrutiny

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    7th November 2010

    UPDATE, 3rd Dec: John Rentoul links to this site with his ‘BBC Bias on Iraq’ article. Notice how the usual “Blair haters” never respond to the actual point of the story. They just regurgitate their own prejudices. The WE ALL KNOWERS are alive and well (sort of) and still after the best of us, never the worst.

    Click to Buy Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’

    The BBC’s watchdog, the BBC Trust, are understood to be formally considering a series of complaints about the BBC’s’ coverage of the Iraq inquiry. These relate to how the appearances of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Jack Straw and Tony Blair were reported in news programmes.

    This was the kind of backdrop used by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg when she gave her views on Tony Blair's testimony. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

    The complaints allege that the one-sided selection of testimony and biased commentaries in these reports breached the BBC’s impartiality rules. They follow a complaint about their news reporter Laura Kuenssberg’s remarks during the BBC’s coverage of Tony Blair’s appearance in January at the Chilcot Inquiry, an appeal which was upheld by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit on inaccuracy grounds.

    I took this picture outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on January 29th 2010. I was a witness, more or less, at the Iraq Inquiry when Tony Blair answered questions for a full six hours.

    [More pictures and my reports from Tony Blair’s appearance here and here]

    However, Kuenssberg’s coverage was found not to have broken the impartiality rules, notwithstanding that her inaccurate reporting of Sir Christopher Meyer’s evidence, chimed with the version put out by the anti-war lobby and was made against the backdrop of the anti-Blair demonstration held that day.

    I wrote about the guilty/but innocent findings over Kuenssberg at the time here.

    The complainant has argued that the impartiality rules require even-handed reporting on highly controversial matters. The Iraq inquiry obviously falls into this category so adequate pro-war testimony should have been reported alongside the anti-war testimony.

    The outcome of these appeals, expected at the turn of the year (by when a decision about the recall of Tony Blair may have been announced), will determine whether news editors are really bound by the BBC’s impartiality rules in matters of this sort. It will also determine whether the BBC can get away with its vendetta against Tony Blair which followed the Hutton Inquiry finding against them on the Kelly / ‘dodgy dossier’ affair and resulted in the resignation of their top personnel.

    It is interesting to note that the BBC’s Band Aid apology, covered in my previous post and presented here, was couched in terms of the “unfair impression” created by their treatment of the story. In his appeal to the BBC Trust the complainant referred to the “false impression” of the evidence emerging from the Iraq inquiry created by the BBC’s one-sided treatment of it based on anti-war/anti-Blair “newsworthiness”. Clearly, for logical consistency, if creating an unfair impression is wrong in the case of the BBC’s Band Aid story it must be wrong in the case of their Iraq inquiry coverage.

    Moreover if Peter Horrocks, their Director of global news, cites the fact that “the BBC can wholeheartedly acknowledge that errors have been made [on the Band Aid story]” as being “a strength”, then presumably the BBC Trust’s failure to admit errors on the BBC’s Iraq Inquiry coverage will be a sign of weakness.

    The BBC Trust’s verdict on this case will therefore not only be a verdict on the BBC’s impartiality but will also be a verdict on themselves as the BBC’s watchdog.



    “I’ll be watching you”


    And I’ll be watching the rest of you too. Take a look at this Telegraph “lie detector” (see Telegraph) as Mr Blair gave his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry. They were forced or advised to change the words “Lie Detector” at the top left hand corner. They did. They altered it the arguably less leading question – “Are You Convinced?” (See here on the change of title)



    Laura Kuenssberg (Wikipedia)


    Click for further information from this site, linking to the Iraq Inquiry evidence sessions

    Former Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday Jan. 29, 2010 testifying to Britain's Iraq Inquiry. Blair told the Inquiry panel that Saddam Hussein didn't become a bigger threat after Sept. 11, but said his perception of the risk posed by terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction was dramatically changed by the attacks. (AP Photo/APTN)


    This blog – Biased BBC – which keeps an eye on the BBC, generally highlighting its left-leanings, has at the foot of the page some interesting quotes from BBC broadcasters, past and present. For instance:

    Antony Jay

    “But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it.”
    Antony Jay, Telegraph, July 2007

    Andrew Marr

    “..the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain ‘natural’ beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off.”
    Andrew Marr, The Guardian Feb. 1999

    The quote from Jeremy Paxman makes me wonder how come he’s still working there. Perhaps, as it was for Blair within Labour, it’s his popularity that keeps him in his job.

    Click to Buy Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’

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    One Response to “BBC’s Iraq Inquiry coverage (and impartiality rules) under scrutiny”

    1. BBC’s sneering Paxman carpeted as “partial” by Helen Boaden, via Stan Rosenthal « The Feral Press Says:

      […] BBC’s Iraq Inquiry Coverage (& Impartiality Rules) Under Scrutiny […]

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