independent inquiry led by Lord Hutton, which concluded that no one involved could have foreseen or prevented Kelly's suicide, although Hutton's conclusions were popularly regarded here as a whitewash absolving the Ministry of Defence and the Government of blame. In the wake of the Hutton inquiry two of the BBC's top people resigned, yet, overall, it seemed that the grand old dame of public broadcasting had weathered the storm fairly well: one poll later showed that two-thirds of Britons still trust the BBC, while less than a third trust Tony and his cronies to tell us the truth.
What does all this old skullduggery and backroom briefing have to do with Rupert, Tony and Katrina? Rather a lot, as it happens. The Kelly affair seemingly convinced many in Blair's inner circle that the BBC a) hated them and b) hated America, seeing as the BBC seemed to be keen on any story that threw doubts on the American WMD justification for the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to Blair's keenness to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with Bush, yea, even unto the very gates of Baghdad and Basra, questioning the American government has come to blur in the minds of some in Blair's government with criticising Blair. Because Blair's reputation has become so firmly tied to what Bush does, Blair cannot stomach the slightest criticism of the Bush administration, but rather than admit that, he conflates 'the Bush administration' lazily and inaccurately with 'America'. Where does Murdoch fit into the picture? Well, whose Fox News channel similarly conflates Bush's flavour of Republicanism with 'the American way'? And who likes to provide a slightly less critical spin on Bush and Blair's Big Iraq Adventure, via Fox News on your side of the pond and the ever-patriotic tabloid The Sun on our side? Why... Rupert! Fancy your name coming up again!
The problem with Blair playing the 'blame the BBC' game, of course, is that bias, like beauty, is all in the eye of the beholder. As a media junkie, I tend to follow major news stories in the print media, online and via TV, and so I'm happy to report that I didn't see any difference between the way the aftermath of Katrina was reported by the BBC and by newspapers like The Independent, or by American online news outlets such as CNN. At every turn, the same stories, the same angles: rumours about what was going on in the Superdome; amazement and genuine horror at the way the poorest and most vulnerable had been left to fend for themselves in New Orleans and beyond; shock and anger at the federal mismanagement of such a major natural disaster. Nowhere did I detect a hint of gloating: indeed, both the BBC and the British press asked whether what Katrina had wrought was a foretaste of what more of us might yet experience, if global warming predictions come true.
|Should one conclude that when Tony says the BBC is full of hate for America, what he really wants to say is that it's full of hate for him?|
The role of a public service broadcaster as massive and well-established as the BBC, funded by the government yet claiming complete journalistic independence from it, will no doubt continue to raise questions here, even beyond the lifespan of the Blair administration. For now, the latest skirmish in the Blair-Beeb war appears to have died down, although, with the opposition Tory party currently trying to elect a new party leader, one of the candidates this week jumped on the 'blame the BBC' bandwagon to claim the Corporation's coverage was biased towards his front-runner opponent. It may yet prove that attacks on the BBC's impartiality can actually serve the British electorate as a useful warning: if a politician claims the BBC is spinning against them, then what, exactly are they trying to spin their way out of themselves?
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