September 11 coverage wins Sky its first Bafta

Kate Burley breaks the news of attack on twin towers

Sky News has been awarded its first Bafta for its coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks in a year when it has won growing recognition from the broadcasting establishment.

The rolling news channel, which launched 13 years ago, received the news programme award for its coverage of September 11 at Sunday’s annual television awards. The channel lost to the BBC two years ago when its coverage of the war in Kosovo was tipped to win.

The prize comes two months after Sky News was named news channel of the year by the Royal Television Society. Political editor Adam Boulton also received the prestigious judge’s prize.

Last week, the Independent Television Commission’s annual report commended Sky News for its reporting of September 11, saying: "The most comprehensive coverage of all was on Sky News, reflecting the fact that high quality does not come solely from those channels that are committed to this by their licences." Jeremy Thompson and Kay Burley, who anchored the channel’s coverage of the tragedy for eight hours, were among the team of presenters who received the award.

Nick Pollard, Sky’s head of news, said it had taken the channel "13 years to become an overnight success". But, he added: "The more people who have access to multichannel TV, the more people in the TV establishment will recognise its merits and the more it will advance.

"Most channels’ coverage on the day was very good and everybody rose to the occasion, but if we had an edge I would say it was that, while reacting quickly and providing good interviews and analysis, the journalists had the right human touch," said Pollard.

"We were doing what the channel was set up to do and it’s great for all the whole team to be recognised. But we can’t afford to stay still – it’s not the best-kept secret that the BBC is determined to overtake us with News 24 and that keeps everybody on their toes."

Another RTS winner, Saira Shah’s Beneath the Veil for Channel 4, received the current affairs award. The undercover film, which was made before the September 11 atrocities, examined the plight of women under the now-deposed Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Channel 4, which dominated the Baftas last year, won four awards, including the features award for Faking It.

The best factual series award went to BBC2’s Horizon at a ceremony where the broadcaster picked up a total of 10. Louis Theroux received the Richard Dimbleby Award for best presenter.

Among the four awards won by ITV was the Flaherty Award for best documentary for the Carlton-produced Kelly and Her Sisters, which was screened last autumn and showed three months in the lives of six sisters living on a condemned council estate in the Midlands.

Julie Tomlin

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