NBC has come under fierce criticism in the US following the broadcast of footage showing a marine shooting dead an injured Iraqi.
The footage, filmed while journalist Kevin Sites was embedded with the US army, was broadcast around the world after the news network broke the story on 15 November.
“It has created a big controversy as to whether we should have reported it at all,” said NBC News vice president Bill Wheatley at a News Xchange debate on the role of the Arab media. “But we felt confident that we should.”
American commanders have been reported as saying that the footage has yielded a huge propaganda victory for the anti-American insurgency.
Sites is understood to have received hate mail and threats since his report was aired.
Wheatley said NBC has been subjected to an email campaign and had come under fierce criticism on TV and radio talk shows.
“People were asking whether we were undermining the American effort and causing those soldiers to be in more danger by doing it,” he told Press Gazette .
“But we expected that. It’s a fact of life in the US now that everything you do is politicised.”
He said NBC had shown the tape to the commanders of the battalion the marine was serving with and to regional headquarters in Fallujah “because we needed them to react”. He insisted there had been no attempt by the military to prevent NBC broadcasting the video.
Wheatley added that Site’s report was an example of how “overall, embedding has been good for the media”.
But, he added: “The real question is whether this causes the military to decide that it’s not working for them any more.”
The decision to show an edited version of the videotape and not to show the actual shooting was, he said, made on grounds of taste. “At NBC we don’t show specific acts of violence if we deem them too graphic,” he told the audience of news executives.
The footage was shared with broadcasters under a pooling agreement.
Al-Jazeera’s managing director Wadah Khanfar said the news channel had shown the shooting in full “because when we looked at it, it was a medium-wide shot and it was not showing the actual shooting close up. Our editorial position is that we can show these things.”