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Biased Reporting


John Simkin
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You might be interested in how the America's Fox News channel reported the Hutton Report:

The British Broadcasting Corporation was forced to pay up for its blatant anti-Americanism before and during the Iraq war. A frothing at the mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest.

The BBC - the "Beeb" - was one of the worst offenders in the British press because it felt entitled to not only pillory Americans and George W Bush, but it felt entitled to lie. And when caught lying, it felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives.

The incident involved the reporter Andrew Gilligan who made a fool of himself in Baghdad when the American invasion actually arrived in the Iraqi capital. Gilligan, pro-Iraqi and anti-American, insisted on the air that the Iraqi army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American military. Video from our own Greg Kelly of the American army moving through Baghdad at will put the light to that.

After the war, back in London, Gilligan got a guy named David Kelly to tell him a few things about pre-war assessments on Iraq's weapons programmes. And Gilligan exaggerated about what Kelly had told him.

Kelly committed suicide over the story and the BBC, far from blaming itself, insisted its reporter had a right to lie and exaggerate, because, well, the BBC knew the war was wrong and anything it could say to underscore that point had to be right.

The British government investigation slammed the BBC on Wednesday and a Beeb exec resigned to show they got it.

But they don't.

So the next time you hear the BBC bragging about how much superior the Brits are at delivering the news than Americans who wear flags in their lapels, remember it was the Beeb caught lying.

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Guest Adrian Dingle

John

For those of us who are isolated in the USA and as a result are exposed to "FOX News like" reporting from all angles, would you be kind enough to decipher (in 100 words or less!) the Hutton report from a BBC perspective? That is, tell me where FOX is going wrong, and explain why you consider their reporting of this matter to be bogus. Thanks. (This is not a sarcastic request - I would genuinely like to hear a counter point).

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John

For those of us who are isolated in the USA and as a result are exposed to "FOX News like" reporting from all angles, would you be kind enough to decipher (in 100 words or less!) the Hutton report from a BBC perspective? That is, tell me where FOX is going wrong, and explain why you consider their reporting of this matter to be bogus. Thanks. (This is not a sarcastic request - I would genuinely like to hear a counter point).

No offence taken. I will try to explain my by analysing the article in detail.

(1) The British Broadcasting Corporation was forced to pay up for its blatant anti-Americanism before and during the Iraq war. A frothing at the mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest.

The British government did try to portray those who were opposed to the war as being anti-American. It is based on the idea that when you criticise the policy decision of the Bush administration you are really expressing an anti-American view. This is not an argument that many people in Britain take seriously. Although, many, including myself, would argue that many people who took an anti-war view were partly influenced by their perceptions of Bush. Many people who have watched Bush over the last couple of years have been concerned about the intellectual capability of the man. In Britain, we always insist of being governed by intelligent people. It makes us feel a little bit safer.

As far as I am aware the government (or anyone else for that matter) did not accuse the BBC of being anti-American. However, the government did try to give the idea that those who were against the war were pro-German and pro-French. I found this the most repulsive of all the methods employed by the government and the Sun newspaper. It is a worrying trend that the party with a long tradition of internationalism should have leaders willing to exploit the deep-seated prejudices of its people. It is just further evidence that Britain is currently being governed by a group of unprincipled people.

(2) The BBC - the "Beeb" - was one of the worst offenders in the British press because it felt entitled to not only pillory Americans and George W Bush, but it felt entitled to lie. And when caught lying, it felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives.

To start with the BBC is not part of the press as it does not publish newspapers.

The BBC or its journalists were not caught lying. In fact, Hutton did not accuse anyone of lying. What he did was to judge that one part of one broadcast could not be backed up by the evidence. Nor could it because it was based on speculation about what someone knew. What Gilligan was criticised for was his comment that Blair/Campbell included the 45 minute claim in the dossier knowing it was untrue. We now know it was untrue but it has been impossible to discover that it was known to be untrue. (In fact, according to a comment made by Blair in the House of Commons it seems he did not know enough about the 45 minute claim to know whether it was true or not. As a result he is now being described as either a xxxx or an incompetent prime minister.)

We know the rest of the story was true and that this information came from David Kelly. The reason for this is that Kelly also spoke to another BBC journalist, Susan Watts. She taped the interview and this shows that Kelly did say these things to her, although some aspects of his comments she did not use in her broadcast.

One of the key points of the story was that the 45 minute claim was based on a single source. Not only do we now know that it was not only a single source, it was a highly unreliable source. Even the person who gave the information to the security services admitted they did not whether it was true and expected that the information to be checked out. It is this kind of information that has persuaded a large percentage of the population that the claim was inserted knowing it was untrue. However, as the government did not keep minutes of these meetings, it is impossible to prove. It of course raises questions about why minutes were not made during these meetings. Blair of course has learnt from history. We would not know about how Johnson organised the cover-up of the Kennedy assassination or how Nixon lied about Watergate, if it was not for them taping their conversations. Blair, like all modern political leaders, is very careful about the evidence he leaves behind.

Ironically, Gilligan was criticised for using a single-source (Kelly) for his story. Yet, the story was itself about a single-source. It seems that it is acceptable for a government to use a single-source to justify an invasion of another country, but it is not acceptable to use a single-source to criticise that decision.

(3) The incident involved the reporter Andrew Gilligan who made a fool of himself in Baghdad when the American invasion actually arrived in the Iraqi capital. Gilligan, pro-Iraqi and anti-American, insisted on the air that the Iraqi army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American military. Video from our own Greg Kelly of the American army moving through Baghdad at will put the light to that.

I know nothing about this story. It was definitely not mentioned in the Hutton Inquiry. However, there is no evidence that Gilligan is pro-Iraqi. However, he is anti-Blair. Blair is usually attacked by those considered to be left of centre. Gilligan attacks Blair from the right. In reality, he is anti-European and pro-American. In this case, in order to get at Blair, he had to attack his pro-Americanism.

(4) After the war, back in London, Gilligan got a guy named David Kelly to tell him a few things about pre-war assessments on Iraq's weapons programmes. And Gilligan exaggerated about what Kelly had told him.

As I have said earlier, we do not know whether he exaggerated the evidence provided by Kelly. Hutton believed the government rather than Gilligan. However, polls show the vast majority of the British public think the report was a whitewash (one poll suggests 91% think it was a whitewash). They might not believe Gilligan, but they definitely don’t believe Blair. (The Hutton Report has proved to be disastrous for Blair’s own poll-ratings).

(5) Kelly committed suicide over the story and the BBC, far from blaming itself, insisted its reporter had a right to lie and exaggerate, because, well, the BBC knew the war was wrong and anything it could say to underscore that point had to be right.

We do not know why Kelly committed suicide. The BBC story may well have played its part. So also would have the means that the government used to out his name. Probably the most important factor was that he was under pressure to tell a story before a parliamentary committee that was untrue. That pressure took the form of threats about prosecution and the loss of pension rights. It could be argued that the government was right to do this. However, it definitely had a bearing on his decision to take his own life.

(6) The British government investigation slammed the BBC on Wednesday and a Beeb exec resigned to show they got it.

But they don't.

So the next time you hear the BBC bragging about how much superior the Brits are at delivering the news than Americans who wear flags in their lapels, remember it was the Beeb caught lying.

The style of this journalism is completely alien to television broadcasting in Britain. It is very similar to something you would read in the Sun newspaper. That is not surprising as both organizations are owned by the same man: Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch was the world’s main cheerleader for the Iraq war. Every one of his 239 newspapers argued for the war. He even gave an interview explaining his policy. His view was the war would result in lower oil prices. This would then stimulate the economy and cause an increase in share-prices. He was right of course about the economic benefits of the war.

The Sun is Britain’s most popular newspaper. For many years it was a fervent supporter of the Conservative Party. This is not surprising considering the right-wing views of its owner. On several occasions the Sun boasted that it was a major factor in deciding these elections. After one election it had the headline “The Sun Won It”.

Just before the 1997 General Election a meeting took place between Blair and Murdoch. After this date the Sun switched to being a New Labour supporter. We do not know what was said at this meeting (no minutes were taken). What we do know is that for the last six years the newspaper has provided loyal support to the party. It was of course the only newspaper that believed the Hutton Report. In fact, the newspaper’s political editor said it was the report he would have written.

It was quite a surprise that an apparently pro-European should be supported by a leading anti-European. It does not seem to caused any problems. Although Blair still makes pro-European speeches, he does not take any actions to support these views.

Murdoch has been very happy with the government’s tax policies. For years he has paid very little tax in Britain. He is strongly opposed to any policies that would change this situation. This is a key issue for Murdoch. Two weeks ago the Murdoch owned, Sunday Times, included a article about a list of right-wing industrialists who are the main financiers of the New Labour Party. It claimed that these men would withdraw their support of the party if Gordon Brown became the leader. This was based on the idea that Brown was really a supporter of progressive taxation. At the moment he is being controlled by Blair, but if he left, Brown would return to his original socialist beliefs.

Murdoch’s main concern is about government regulation of the media industry. It is very important that the government does not do anything to interfere with his business interests. His primary concern is with his ability to make money from subscription television stations. This is being put at threat by the decision of the BBC to provide free digital stations. He sees this development as a serious threat to his long-term business plan. Murdoch therefore wants the BBC to be privatised. As he rightly points out, he cannot compete with a free service. At the moment the only area he wins in is in areas where the BBC is excluded (for example, live Premiership football games). His ultimate nightmare is that taxpayers money will be used to buy up the rights of Premiership games for showing on the BBC.

Will Blair give Murdoch what he wants? Will he privatise the BBC and C4. I am fairly confident that he will in time privatise C4 (probably to help pay for higher education). However, the BBC is another matter. It is considered a national treasure. What is significant is that the three BBC governors who insisted on the resignation of Greg Dyke are also the three governors in favour of privatisation. Blair will obviously use the Hutton Report to strengthen the position of those in support of this policy. I doubt very much if he will be willing to take on his party and public opinion in order to privatise the BBC. But that is what I thought about Top Up Fees.

For an article about Fox Television see the following:

http://www.fair.org/extra/0108/fox-main.html

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