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[casi] What an embarrassing "victory" for BBC...,12123,991227,00.html

Study deals a blow to claims of anti-war bias in BBC news

Matt Wells, media correspondent
Friday July 4, 2003
The Guardian

Downing Street's complaints about anti-war bias within the BBC appear to be
disproved by an academic analysis that shows the corporation displayed the
most "pro-war" agenda of any broadcaster.

A detailed study of peak-time television news bulletins during the course of
the Iraq war shows that the BBC was more reliant than any of its rivals on
government and military sources.

The findings, by academics at Cardiff University, give little support to the
deep-rooted suspicions in government circles that lie at the heart of the
row with the BBC. Instead, ahead of the report by the foreign affairs select
committee into the government's use of intelligence, they give comfort to
the corporation.

Over the three weeks of conflict, 11% of the sources quoted by the BBC were
of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all
the main television broadcasters. The BBC was the least likely to quote
official Iraqi sources, and less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to
use independent (and often sceptical) sources such as the Red Cross.

The study found the BBC placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties, which
were mentioned in 22% of its stories about the Iraqi people. Casualties
received most prominence on Channel 4 News, figuring in 40% of its reports
about Iraqis. The corporation was least likely to report on the unhappiness
of Iraqis about the invasion.

The research, funded by Cardiff University, covers the BBC1 news at 6pm, the
ITV Evening News at 6.30pm, Channel 4 News at 7pm and Sky News at 9pm.
Channel 4 News was the most questioning of the coalition line, while ITV
News used the lowest proportion of coalition sources.

Presenting the findings in the Guardian today, Justin Lewis, deputy head of
the school of journalism, media and cultural studies at Cardiff University,
says: "Far from revealing an anti-war BBC, our findings tend to give
credence to those who criticised the BBC for being too sympathetic to the
government's pro-war stance. Either way, to accuse the BBC of an anti-war
bias fails to stand up to any serious or sustained analysis."

The BBC says it received a stream of complaints about its war coverage.
Richard Sambrook, the director of news, said in a letter to Alastair
Campbell, the director of communications at Downing Street, at the height of
the row: "It is our firm view that No 10 tried to intimidate the BBC in its
reporting of events leading up to the war and during the course of the war

Mr Campbell chose to fight a public battle on the subject of a BBC story
that reported a claim he had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction. He told the foreign affairs select committee
two weeks ago that the claim in the BBC report was "a lie". Later in the
week, he dismissed the BBC's response as a combination of "weasel words and

But the Guardian understands that Mr Campbell had an equally heated row on
the eve of war when 139 rebel Labour MPs voted against the government in a
Commons vote on the case for the conflict.

He was furious that the BBC presented the result as a "record rebellion" -
which it was - instead of a significant victory for Tony Blair because the
rebels did not win the vote.

Some commentators sympathetic with Downing Street's case have supported the
claim that the BBC was anti-war: this week the Sun ran a story claiming that
senior BBC journalists Jeremy Paxman, John Simpson, Peter Sissons and David
Dimbleby were "alarmed" about the effect the row may have on the BBC's
reputation for impartiality.

Yesterday, the four sent an open letter to the Sun, attacking its political
editor for failing to contact them before running the story. They wrote:
"Neither Trevor Kavanagh, nor anyone else from the Sun, has ever sought our
opinions on this matter. Had they done so, they would know that we don't
indulge in private comment on matters of public debate."

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