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Wednesday, April 09, 2003

More BBC Bashing

InstaPundit links to this column, so you don't really need me to point to it, but it jibes so well with my experience that I thought I should.

Denis Boyles lives in France, and he apparently doesn't have TV, or at least not English-language TV. So after listening to the war on radio on the BBC's World Service---and finding that the war is not going well, that the Americans are lying about their progress---he goes to watch TV at the home of a friend who has satellite TV. He also brings along his radio, for comparison:

It was a startling multimedia event. I could listen to the BBC's Paul Wood telling me once again that there was no sign of the American incursion into Baghdad. Yet on the screen in front of me there was the 3rd Infantry. They were cruising through Baghdad, driving down the highway, turning into the streets...At the airport, a correspondent was asked about the Iraqi claim that the Americans had been driven out of the airport and were being "pounded" by Republican Guards. He looked around, mystified, then replied that he'd been at the airport for two days, that it was securely in Coalition hands, and that the only Iraqi challenge he had noticed had been a couple of small skirmishes that were quickly quelled by Coalition forces. "Maybe that's what he meant," he said, generously. Behind him, soldiers lounged around like the stranded tourists they were.

The BBC's correspondent at CENTCOM was asked whether the Americans or Iraqis should be believed:

It's obvious the Iraqis are lying, Marcus shot back, adding that the American incursion was not only real, it was significant and had gone deep into the capital. "Anybody who questions that can't see the forest for the trees," he said. It was the only real-world comment I had heard in a full day of World Service listening. That was the last I heard of Marcus that day.

Remember, this is the Jonathan Marcus who asked Tommy Franks why he should believe that Iraqi troops had been surrendering, and hinted that he didn't want to be spreading American propaganda. (See also this Andrew Sullivan post.) Did he come up with that question, or was it fed to him by BBC HQ? Will the real Jonathan Marcus please stand up?

This was also my experience of watching the BBC in Sydney: time and time again their American correspondents' reports of what was going on in the US were so out of kilter with what I'd been hearing from other sources as to border on fantasy. This includes things like the "panic" after the anthrax attacks, and "fear" of flying after 9/11. Their military analysts were often very dismissive of US capabilities, and (thus) very frequently wrong. This didn't stop them from being brought back again and again.

This little bit shocked me:

But the World Service's revision of focus also coincided unhappily with a key decision announced early in March by the BBC's controller of editorial policy, Stephen Whittle. It was Whittle's wish that corporation broadcasts specifically reflect anti-war opinion.

I could only find one item on this, in the Guardian. Their first paragraph says the same thing as Boyles's, but the rest of the article says that Whittle wanted to make sure anti-war opinion was presented, not necessarily that only anti-war opinion was presented.

LATE ADDITION: Although I've not quoted those parts, Boyles also mentions BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan, quoted as being skeptical that the Marines had entered Baghdad, saying, "...the Americans have a history of making these premature announcements." Gilligan is the subject of this Guardian article, in which he says he's looked at the 15th floor room at the Palestine Hotel where two journalists were killed and three injured. This has been attributed to US tank fire, and troops there at the time have admitted firing on the hotel, because they said they thought they saw spotters on the roof.

But the roof is not the 15th floor. Gilligan says he doubts that the damage was caused by an American tank because 1) a tank shell would have caused more damage, and 2) it was at the wrong angle; the tanks would have to have fired around a corner. The first point was my impression also, from seeing the TV pictures yesterday. I have no idea about the second. Anyhow, this is to give Gilligan his due.