'Inaccurate' war reports are not a crisis, says BBC

Broadcast stories about the Iraq war that later prove to be overly optimistic or downright false is a problem but not a crisis, says BBC deputy director of news Mark Damazer.

Speaking to Press Gazette this week, Damazer acknowledged a “pattern in the first week of over-optimism”, and said BBC journalists needed to bear this in mind when filing reports, just as they would acknowledge that Iraqi TV was government controlled.

“I would say it’s a greatly significant issue, but not a crisis,” he said. “The audience is not being hoodwinked. But I would not be surprised if the MoD and politicians, in light of the experience of the first week, are thinking about how their briefers should now operate.”

Damazer said there was no evidence that the reports fed to journalists by the MoD and US Department of Defense were part of “a calculated policy to lie”.

The BBC’s reputation for objectivity has taken several knocks since the war broke out, with many reports broadcast as fact in the first week turning out to be less so.

Reports of the “liberation” of Umm Qasr, the convoy of “120” Iraqi tanks and the “capture of 8,000 Iraqi soldiers” all crumbled under scrutiny as time wore on.

BBC executives have said that inaccurate news reports fed to journalists by the military, while “not deliberate, were damaging us and the MoD”.

BBC head of newsgathering Adrian Van Klaveren met MoD officials last week to discuss the progress of “embedded” media coverage. The conclusion was that both sides were “highly satisfied” with the results so far.

By Wale Azeez

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