In One Eye

Thursday, June 26, 2003
How many feet would CNN et al end up kissing if this were an American story?
The BBC has rejected [British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief press secretary] Alastair Campbell's demands that it apologise to the government for its coverage of the Iraq conflict and has accused Mr Campbell of "seriously misrepresenting" its journalists.

Richard Sambrook, the BBC's head of news, said the corporation had nothing to apologise for. He insisted that reports that intelligence officials had been unhappy with the government's claim that Iraq could launch WMD attacks within 45 minutes were based on briefings by "a senior, credible and reliable source."

He said: "Frankly, I don't think the BBC needs to be taught lessons in the use of sources by a communications department which plagiarised a 12-year-old thesis and distributed it unattributed" ...

Mr Sambrook rejected Mr Campbell's claim that the BBC had accused the prime minister of lying and misleading the Commons. "We never said any such thing," he said. He also denied Mr Campbell's assertion that the BBC had an anti-war agenda, saying: "That's untrue, we have no agenda."

"We are not going to apologise for something we haven't said, it's as simple as that," he said. "So Alastair Campbell can try and pretend we said all sorts of things we didn't say. We are absolutely clear about what we said."
Two things strike me about this story: Government attempts (by press secretaries and others) to control the dissemination of information is not endemic to the US. However, US news outlets certainly don't seem to demonstrate the backbone shown by Mr. Sambrook in this episode.

UPDATE: Jimmy Breslin has a fine piece regarding the lapdog American press in this article.
I am thinking that it could be time for me to begin thinking about leaving this news business. It is not mine anymore ...

[Y]ou have a citizen kidnapped by agents, and there is no anger. The day's news is about a children's book and a has-been heavyweight, Mike Tyson, under arrest. There is not even the beginnings of anger about an American kidnapped by his government, over freedom being taken from us all, and bet me you won't see it back. The newspeople are comfortable with being known as the ''media.'' That is a dangerous word; all evil rises around those afflicted with it.