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Denis Boyles
Biased Beeb
The BBC’s World Service makes the New York Times seem fair and balanced.
21 July 2006

The BBC’s World Service is by far the world’s largest broadcaster, with some 150 million people tuning in every week in 43 languages. It already partners with 1,500 FM outlets in the U.S. and around the world. Now it seeks an even wider American presence by romancing NPR outlets. What better for Galena, Alaska, and Lyman, Wyoming (both now receiving the BBC’s service), than full coverage of cricket, rugby, gardening—and hard-core anti-American left-wing politics!

Unlike NPR, the World Service needn’t worry about fund-raising. It takes in over $400 million yearly from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in return for providing a “benefit” to the U.K. It’s hard for the FCO to quantify that benefit, but it places a great deal of weight on “testimonials” from “Cosmopolitans”—“opinion formers,” in the language of a 2004 BBC report.

Cosmopolitans take great comfort in the World Service’s furious coverage of the conflict in Iraq. From the outset, the Beeb’s allegiance was clear: its reporting, said controller of editorial policy Stephen Whittle, “must reflect significant opposition in the U.K. (and elsewhere) to the military conflict.”

Not a problem. The World Service swiftly found a “Middle East expert” to describe the first U.S. missile strike on Baghdad as “pure American imperialism.” The service left listeners in the dark, however, about the so-called expert’s affiliation with an Arab-funded pro-Palestinian lobby. As the war continued, and the BBC remained the sole provider of news to Iraqis, the broadcaster aired calls for suicide bombers to fight the coalition and ran interviews with angry anti-American Iraqis, sometimes without telling listeners that Ba’athist minders were on hand. When the Americans claimed to be in Baghdad, BBC reporters denied it—even as CNN carried video of tanks rolling through the capital’s streets.

Now, the Iraq fascists know that to win, they just have to detonate an old Fiat every day at lunch. They’ve told us their strategy: manipulate the press to create a low-budget epic of defeat until war support collapses. The Beeb eagerly obliges, as when a correspondent accepted from insurgents a video showing dead bodies as “proof” of American atrocities. He dutifully proclaimed it true based on . . . well, on watching the video.

One ubiquitous World Service technique: loose anecdotal reporting. If a BBC reporter can’t find a friend of a friend to discuss some aspect of the failure he wants to see in Iraq, he’ll interview his translator, or even himself, to get that “news.” “I have been here for two weeks,” one correspondent recently observed. “Hardly a day has gone by without several car bombs in Baghdad and so many bodies dumped in the street that I have lost count.” His translator agrees. No context, no background to help listeners understand what’s happening—just opining how bad it all is.

Cosmos may love this stuff. But what’s the “benefit” of having such unhappy, hostile journalists wandering through a theater of war—especially when they become weapons used against the coalition and the Iraqis themselves? The safest place for the World Service would be out of Iraq. It’s time to bring them home—but to the U.K., please, not to the U.S. We’ve already got enough of such “reporting” in our mainstream media.

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This story was cited in:
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