Friday 2 May 2003

Media bosses admit pro-war bias in coverage of Iraq

Turner and Murdoch Two leading media bosses have admitted what has been increasingly evident throughout the month-long war in Iraq: the American broadcast media systematically distorted the news of the war and functioned as an electronic arm of the Pentagon and the Bush administration.

In separate speeches April 24 in London and San Francisco, BBC Director General Greg Dyke and Ted Turner, founder of CNN, discussed the performance of the media during the war.

Both sought to lay the blame for the super-patriotic tone of the war coverage largely on the media empire of billionaire Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns Fox News, the biggest US cable news network, as well as Britain’s Sky News and nearly 200 daily newspapers worldwide. While there is no doubt that Murdoch was the most strident of the voices for war, the BBC, CNN and the rest of the broadcast and print media followed suit.

Dyke spoke at a conference at the University of London, singling out US television and radio coverage of the war, not the British media, especially Fox and Clear Channel Communications, the largest US radio group. “I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war,” Dyke said. “If Iraq proved anything, it was that the BBC cannot afford to mix patriotism and journalism. This is happening in the United States and if it continues, will undermine the credibility of the US electronic news media.”

He pointed to the open espousal of right-wing politics on Fox News, as well as the organization of pro-war rallies by talk-radio hosts working for Clear Channel Communications. (While Clear Channel encouraged its DJs to engage in political activity, the US media as a whole barred employees from participating in antiwar rallies and one major newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, fired a tech columnist who joined a march against the war.

Dyke admitted that the conduct of the American television networks was detrimental to “the health of our democracy,” adding that the trend has been noticeable “particularly since September 11, when many US networks wrapped themselves in the American flag and swapped impartiality for patriotism.”

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