Greg Dyke has criticised US coverage of the war in Iraq, declaring that broadcasters there lost sight of producing impartial news reports.
The BBC director general made his speech while collecting an award for outstanding services to broadcasting at the International Emmy directorate awards this week.
“News organisations should be in the business of balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other. This is something that seemed to get lost in American reporting during the war,” he told the audience in New York.
According to Dyke, the BBC would have failed in its duty if it had adopted the same approach as US broadcasters.
He cited the fact that only four of the 840 experts interviewed by US news organisations during the conflict were opposed to it.
“Telling people what they want to hear is not doing them any favours,” he said. “It may not be comfortable to challenge governments or even popular opinion, but it’s what broadcasters are here to do.”
Dyke said television news should not be regarded as a market commodity such as Starbucks or Coca-Cola. “If we treat television like these things, it will become like them. We end up with nothing more than a briefly enjoyable experience devoid of any lasting value.”
Channel 4 News scooped the international Emmy for news coverage for its coverage of Iraq, with a compilation of reports by Lindsey Hilsum, Mark Easton and Nicholas Glass.
“Winning the Emmy is a terrific mark of international recognition,” said Channel 4 News managing editor Guy Ker.
By Sarah Boden