Gloating and hate? No, vivid journalism

In a report from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina,
BBC reporter Matt Frei drew our attention to a dead body that had
remained untouched on the ground for more than 48 hours.

Confronting
a federal official, he asked if it was acceptable that the corpse –
which was in an easily accessible position – should still be there. The
exchange vividly brought home the fact that vital aspects of the
recovery operation were not working.

The report would have lost
much of its impact had Frei been entirely impassive on screen. But the
frustration that he showed clearly reflected the anger and
disappointment of survivors who felt let down by their government. It
was a human response to a massive humanitarian disaster.

Except that our own Prime Minister appears to think that reports such as Frei’s constituted “gloating”

by
the BBC. And that by pointing out, along with many other media sources,
that the richest nation in the world seemed surprisingly ill-equipped
and slow to respond to a disaster on its own backyard, the BBC was
“just full of hate for America”.

And who did Tony Blair share
these thoughts with? Of course: Rupert Murdoch, a man who was hardly
going to be unhappy spreading word of anything that undermines the
corporation.

It was an extraordinary thing to say. And an extraordinary person to say it to.

Since then, Downing Street has remained silent.

The
refusal to confirm or deny Murdoch’s gossip is telling. If Blair didn’t
express such sentiments, he should say so – although calling Rupert
Murdoch a liar may not be the best move of his life. Such is the danger
of being too chummy with media magnates.

Or perhaps he now simply
realises, as Martin Bell pointed out, that one of the main reasons for
the BBC’s existence is to report events as they actually happened. And
not as politicians may want them perceived to have happened.

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