April 13, 2004

Aunty, Come Back...

One of the great unsung tragedies of the Iraq War is the de-clawing of the BBC. When is the last time you read a good, critical account of the War on the BBC News website? In the wake of the Hutton inquiry, senior management have obviously told reporters to keep their "opinions" to themselves. As a result, the BBC has become just another mouthpiece for White House spokespersons and Downing Street press releases. There must be a lot of very qualified, experienced and knowledgeable reporters who are now considering leaving the BBC, which could irreparably harm this great and noble public institution... all because they dared to report that the Emperor had no clothes.

In a sense, the war in Iraq has also become an international media war, the outcome of which is likely to determine how we get our news for another generation or more. According to a new book by Paul Rutherford, Weapons of Mass Persuasion, there are now "20,000 more public relations experts in the United States doctoring the news than there are journalists trying to write it". Fortunately, the War has also increased the visibility of independent online news sites like Alternet, Buzzflash, AntiWar.com and others. Many of these sites are run by single individuals on very basic budgets, yet they could hold the key to the future of truly independent "free" journalism.


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