TV AND THE WARby RAY FLEMING
THE BBC has had a terrible war. Who says so? The Daily Telegraph in its first leading article yesterday. After a 600-word indictment of just about every BBC reporter and presenter who has opened his or her mouth on the subject of Iraq - but exluding John Humphyrs, surely an oversight? - the Telegraph concluded with these words: What is the mood among licence-payers? Mutinous.
Perhaps, before getting so worked up about the alleged negative bias in the BBC's reporting of the Iraq invasion, the writer of the article should have looked at the research published on Thursday by the MORI poll organisation on attitudes to the news coverage provided by eight channels: BBC1, ITV1, BBC2, Channel 4, BBC 24-hour news, Sky News, Channel 5 and CNN. Just under one thousand people were asked two key questions: Which TV channel have you watched most since the war started?; Which channel do you trust most? BBC 1 was the most watched channel, with 38 per cent naming it; ITV with 13 per cent came next, followed by Sky News with 11 per cent.
On the issue of trust, BBC 1 was named by 42 per cent, Sky News by 25 per cent, and ITV by 15 per cent. However you read those figures, they cannot be said to support the conclusion reached by the Daily Telegraph. The greatest number of viewers elected to watch the BBC and the greatest number trusted it. In the light of such evidence, how can the Telegraph say that The BBC has failed in its duty to produce the real news?
NEXT Wednesday in Athens representatives of the 10 new members of the European Union will sign the Accession Treaty that in 2004 will change the Union from a mainly Western European association to one whose membership stretches from the Atlantic to the borders of Belarus and the Ukraine. Next week's ceremony will not necessarily be conclusive; the Treaty has to be endorsed by a referendum in each of the new entrant countries and ratified by the parliaments of the existing 15 members. But the deed is as good as done; Hungary holds its referendum today, the first of the former Communist nations to do so, and is confident about the outcome. The only serious question mark is over Cyprus because of the failure of the Greek and Turkish communities there to reach a compromise on an agreement to end the division of their island. The importance of this expansion of the EU has already been recognised in the United States in Donald Rumsfeld's recent riposte to France and Germany about the new Europe. Of equal interest is the degree to which the New Ten will be able to influence the discussion about the future structure and responsibilities of the EU due to take place later this year when Valery Giscard d'Estaing submits his final draft of what some people are calling a constitution. It would be odd if, by an accident of timing, these new members were to be excluded from decisions that will directly and fundamentally affect them for the foreseeable future.
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