The Null Device

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation

An article looking at the BBC's coverage of geopolitics and wars; how it differs from US media coverage, whether impartiality in war constitutes disloyalty (or the old Communists-in-the-BBC cliché), and why so many liberal Americans have turned to British media for their news:
BBC correspondent Nick Higham says anytime you report from the other side, you run the risk of getting flak. As he explains, some would charge, " 'Surely if you're objective and impartial, you are, by implication, going to be sympathetic to our enemies.' " But, "the BBC would say, 'Well, no, what we're trying to do is reflect all sides of an extremely complicated situation'.... And to do that you've got to go and talk to the Iraqis, and you've got to reflect what Osama bin Laden says. And all the rest of it."
"I think Americans, particularly conservative Americans, have a problem with the BBC approach because impartiality, which is the BBC's fundamental watchword, is itself a liberal notion," he says. "And our commitment to impartiality comes out of what is fundamentally a small 'l' liberal culture, liberal media culture, in which objectivity, impartiality are thought to be good in themselves and achievable.... The impression I get is that a lot of Americans just don't get that.... And to them it's much more important that the news media are supportive of the national effort, particularly when you go to war."

This brings to mind what David Malouf wrote in the most recent Quarterly Essay about the differences between the American and British (and thus Australian) cultures of public debate; i.e., that between the time the American colonies were founded and now, the language of public discourse in England shifted from a zealous, idealistic, absolutist tone to a more measured, impartial one, as a result of the Civil War. Which, presumably, is why many Americans are partial to flag-waving FOXNews-style jingoism, of the sort which makes Britons and Australians (and many of America's own liberals) cringe.

A less emotional analysis was conducted by the think tank Cchange, Conservatives for Change. Its 72-page report examines five years' worth of the BBC current-affairs program "Panorama" and the BBC's coverage of a single political issue, whether grammar schools should be retained or abolished. The report, available at, argues not that the BBC is pro-Labor and anti-Conservative, but that there is a set of political values--anti-free market, anti-business, anti-U.S., antiwar--shared by those who work there and evident in BBC reporting.

Anyway, as far as the BBC goes; apparently, the institution's charter is up for rewriting this year, and rumour has it that Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch are in hush-hush talks about what to do with that nasty old BBC.

There are 1 comments on "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation":

Posted by: kstop http:// Fri Jan 16 11:06:04 2004

That article was also interesting for what it left out. There was no real comparison of PSB in the UK and the US, and there was no examination of attempts by certain commercial interests to undermine its mandate. It kindof belies the fact that the BBC is a dynamic institution that really has to fight its corner the whole time.

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